3 Tips for Determining Your ATM Surcharge Fee

Your ATM surcharge fee is how you make money as an ATM owner. The service you provide is convenient access to bank accounts and cash. For users to take advantage of that convenience, they pay you a small surcharge fee per ATM withdrawal transaction. 

One of the most important steps involved in starting your ATM business is determining the surcharge fee you want to impose. You need to have this number at the time of completing the necessary paperwork with your ATM processor. But how do you know how much to charge before you’ve even been in business?

In this article, we’ll provide you with three tips you can use to help determine the right ATM surcharge fee.

Surcharge Fee Guidelines


It will be helpful to look at a range of ATM surcharge fees to start. Typically, surcharge fees range from about $1-$8. There are even surcharge-free ATMs, but these are usually operated by store owners themselves where the extra traffic the machine brings into the store makes enough revenue to support the machine and then some.

Low End

At the ATMs you visit day to day near restaurants, convenience stores, and retailers, you’re likely to see ATM surcharge fees range from about $2-$3. This is the average surcharge fee you can expect. It’s also on the low end. 

The more ATM machines there are in an area, the lower the surcharge will be in order to be competitive. The lower surcharge also corresponds to the average withdrawal amount. Patrons of restaurants, convenience stores, and retailers typically withdraw $60-$100 ($60 being the average withdrawal amount) where a surcharge over $3 starts to become an inconvenient, illogical, and unfair percentage of the actual transaction.

High End

Therefore, ATMs in and near establishments where patrons stay longer and spend more can charge a higher surcharge fee with success. Patrons of casinos, bars, and clubs need cash where they are; it isn’t convenient for them to travel off of the premises to search for an ATM with a lower surcharge.

Additionally, the withdrawal amounts are typically higher at these locations. It makes more sense to pay $5 to withdraw $300 than it does to withdraw $60. For these reasons, surcharge fees upwards of $5 are still convenient and not seen as outrageous at these locations.

Any location with a liquor license can get away with charging higher surcharge fees. When customers drink or are having a good time, the extra cost is worth it to continue the fun, not to mention the fact that our inhibitions are lowered when we are filled with dopamine.

These are the typical surcharge fees you can expect from various locations. To set your own surcharge fee, keep reading for more factors that will affect your success.

Tip #1: Set the Surcharge Fee with the Customer in Mind

You don’t make any money if customers don’t use your ATM machine. So you want to make sure that your surcharge fee is convenient for them while still compensating for your time and effort. 

Therefore, you need to know who your customers are and what they need. This will depend heavily on the location of your ATM machine. 

If your machine is in a low-income neighborhood where account balances might be low, withdrawal amounts will also be low, and users will expect to pay less per transaction. If money is tight, it might be worth it for users to plan a trip to the bank rather than use an ATM with a high surcharge.

Alternatively, ATM users in high-income areas and higher account balances will be able to conduct higher withdrawal transactions and aren’t likely to flinch at a surcharge of $3+.

You also want to consider the price of convenience for your customers. If there are a number of other ATM machines in the vicinity, you might be forced to charge a more competitive surcharge fee. On the other hand, of course, if yours is the only ATM machine around, customers will understand paying more for the convenience of using your particular machine.

Above all, be wary of setting too high of a surcharge fee. If customers don’t want to pay it, they won’t use your machine and you will lose out on revenue. You make more money charging $2 per 10 customers than $3 per 5.

Tip#2: Discuss the Surcharge Fee with the Location Owner

If you place your ATM in someone else’s store or business, you need to consider the location owner’s needs and wants as well. The location owner knows the clientele best, so consult with him or her to determine a fair surcharge that brings in more business rather than driving it away. 

The location owner wants to bring traffic to the location, and therefore might propose a lower surcharge than you. However, if you are sharing some of the ATM revenue with the location owner, you want to make sure that your share is enough to make a profit after expenses. Collaborate with the location owner to strike a fair deal when determining the surcharge fee for your ATM.

Tip #3: Use the Surcharge Fee to Speed Up ROI

When first setting your surcharge fee with your ATM processor, you might want to err on the high end. You can’t make a profit until you meet your return on investment (ROI), and you’re going to make that amount back quicker with a higher surcharge.

Your initial investment might include the cost of the machine, additional features like a topper or security camera, and upgrades like a removable cassette or e-lock. Everything that you spent in order to get your ATM business started you need to make back first. Then, whatever you make after that earns you profit.

Remember, too, that the revenue generated by your ATM machine needs to cover regular expenses as well. This includes receipt paper, insurance if you have it, and whatever costs are associated with cleaning, maintenance, and repairs. So keep these costs in mind when setting your surcharge.

Determining Your Surcharge Fee

Pick a dollar amount. Multiply that by about 5 transactions a day. Multiply that by 30 days. That should give you a rough estimate of how much revenue to expect in a month. Now, subtract the location owner’s share and any monthly expenses associated with operating the machine.

Once you have that number, you can determine two things: 

  1. How long it will take to meet your ROI
  2. How much profit you will make

If the answer to #1 is too long for your comfort, raise the surcharge. If the answer to #2 is too small, raise the surcharge. 

In our article, How Much Can My ATM Machine Make, we provide some formulas and calculators you can use to get more accurate estimates. Play around until you get a number you are satisfied with.

Remember that you can always adjust the surcharge fee to find a good balance of convenience and revenue. You aren’t stuck with the surcharge fee you set when filling out your paperwork. Start with a higher surcharge to meet your ROI quicker, then lower it. Experiment to find out which surcharge amount brings in the most users and results in the most revenue. It’s okay to use trial and error to find a surcharge fee that works for you, the location owner, and your customers. If you’d like more guidance or want to know more about what to expect from a particular location, contact us today!

How to Complete Your ATM Business Basic Checklist

This ATM business basic checklist is for you to use as you go through the process of operating an ATM machine. If you’re looking for more of a step-by-step guide, check out our article How to Start an ATM Business in 5 Steps

However, if you are looking for a list of what needs to be done, this is it. Once you have completed each item in this ATM business basic checklist, you will officially be in business. You can’t neglect any of these items if you want to start operating your own ATM machines!

1. How to Find a Processor

What is ATM Processing?

You need to work with an ATM processing company so that your ATM machine can communicate with your customers’ banks. An ATM processor identifies the network of each card inserted into your ATM machine, routes the information to the user’s bank, verifies the funds, then receives approval from the bank to dispense the withdrawal amount up to what’s available in the account. Check out our video here for more information.

Factors to Consider

Although ATM processing is pretty basic, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing an ATM processing company. It is in your best interest to research a variety of companies to find the one that is going to best suit your business needs and transaction volume.

Now, if you’re just getting started, you might not know your transaction volume yet. But your processor might. Find an experienced company that will be able to assist you throughout your entire career as an ATM owner. 


An experienced company will be able to give you advice regarding the location you choose (keep reading this ATM business basic checklist for more information on choosing a location) as well as how much you can expect to make from that location or from alternative locations.


You also want to work with an ATM processing company that wants you to make money. A company that acts as a business partner will offer you support throughout your entire career, not just during the initial setup. The company should offer training, ongoing support, and dependable support (meaning they answer the phone when you call…).

Other Services

Finally, you want to know what additional services the company provides. Not all ATM machines work with all processing companies, so if you choose a processor before your equipment, you might want to know if they also sell equipment. Because they will only sell machines that they can support.

If you purchase your equipment before choosing a processing company, you will have to make sure the company can support it. (More on deciding machine type next.) And you can switch processors after you are already in operation. Your needs might change, or you might not get the service you expect from your current processing company. In these cases, you will need to switch to a company that can support the machines you already have. 

Other services you might want to consider are vaulting, remote monitoring, and automated payments. This business is all about building passive income. So you want to minimize your workload as much as possible.

You can load your ATM machine (vaulting) yourself to make as much profit as you can. But if this isn’t convenient for you, your ATM processing company might offer this service. 

Remote monitoring allows you to track your machine’s activity and cash availability which makes it easier for you to keep it stocked and minimize downtime. And automated payments prevent you from having to spend time making transfers yourself and constantly online banking. The less time you spend managing your ATM, the more passive income you make.

When looking for an ATM processor, look for a business partner. Find out more about how to choose an ATM processor here.

2. How to Decide on Your Machine Type

You have lots of options when it comes to choosing ATM equipment. If you’ve already chosen an ATM processing company to work with, you will have to narrow your search to machines the company can support. If the company sells machines, this might be the simplest item on this ATM business basic checklist!

Machine Type

First, you need to decide if you want a freestanding machine, a through-the-wall (TTW) machine, or a wall mount machine. The three most important factors to consider when it comes to machine type are cost, space, and security.

TTW machines are the largest of the three types and therefore cost a little more. However, they are more secure because the vault extends into another room that can be secured during regular operation and vaulting. Unfortunately, they require a lot of space and some construction work to allow the machine to fit into the wall if the space doesn’t already exist.

Freestanding machines are smaller than TTW and are therefore a little cheaper. You also have more flexibility with the placement of a freestanding machine. Likely, a majority of the ATM machines you see day to day are freestanding.

Wall mount machines are the smallest of the three types. They are also the cheapest, but they don’t hold as much cash. Wall mount machines are a good option for slower locations. Despite the name, this type can be mounted to a countertop as well which makes them easy and convenient to place; they don’t take up a lot of space.


Some of the biggest names in ATM equipment are Hyosung, Genmega, Hantle, and Triton. All are reputable companies that have been in the business for a long time and are known for producing quality equipment. 

Check out our ATM Buyers Guide for more guidance on choosing the ATM equipment that’s best for your business. We also compare Hyosung and Genmega, the two top of the line ATM manufacturers.

New vs. Refurbished

Finally, you have to weigh the pros and cons of a new vs. refurbished machine. It really comes down to your budget, your experience, and machine availability. 

We recommend starting with a new ATM machine at least for your first one. Newer models come with improved features and advanced technology making them easier to operate.

However, refurbished ATMs are also good options. It just depends on what is available and the quality of the refurbishment. If you have your heart set on a specific manufacturer or model, you might not be able to easily find what you’re looking for; you will more likely have to choose from what’s available. 

Most importantly, make sure you purchase certified refurbished if you choose to go this route. This guarantees that the machine has had standards checks, detailing, and upgrades applied.

3. How to Place Your ATM

If you own your own store, you can go ahead and mark this off of your ATM business basic checklist! If you plan to place your machine in someone else’s business or store, consider these factors:

  • Foot traffic
  • Proximity to other ATMs
  • Proximity to you
  • Liquor license

The busier the location is, the better the location’s reviews are, the more people that pass by it every day, the better your ATM is going to perform. People can’t use your machine if they don’t pass by it or see it, so you want to get as many eyes on your machine as possible.

You also want to corner the market. You will get more users the farther away your machine is from other machines. This way, you aren’t sharing customers; yours is the most convenient!

Remember that the goal is to build passive income. So the less time you spend managing your machine, the more you make! This is why it’s important to choose a location that’s convenient for you, too. If it’s close to the route you take often, either to and from home or work, you make more with less time and work (and gas!).

Finally, keep in mind that locations that have a liquor license are able to charge more for transactions. In our article 9 Best Locations for ATM Machines we share our experiences with ATMs in various locations. If you need help approaching location owners, check out our tips for cold calling or join ATM Depot’s Members Area for access to scripts you can use to negotiate a deal.

4. How to Decide Your Surcharge

Setting your surcharge is all about strategy. You want to strike a balance between a transaction fee that’s convenient for your users and profitable for you. If you’re just getting started, you need to make your return on investment (ROI) before you can start making a profit, so you want to do this quickly. There are two ways you can do this:

First, you can set a surcharge that is lower than the competition to increase the number of transactions your machine receives. Second, you can match the competition or set a higher surcharge to try to make more per transaction. 

However, it isn’t as simple as that. It all depends on your location, the amount of foot traffic, the demand for your service, and your proximity to other machines.

Fortunately, we have a comprehensive guide for How to Set Your ATM Surcharge. Furthermore, you can always adjust your surcharge, so don’t stress out about it too much. Trial and error will play a big role in making sure you get it just right!

Completing Your ATM Business Basic Checklist

You know what you need to do, but how do you do it? This ATM business basic checklist is just the start. That’s why choosing the right ATM processing company is so important. Because you want support from beginning to end. Whether it’s asking questions, strategizing, or filling your pockets, your ATM processor should be there every step of the way making sure that you are successful. If you have questions about choosing a processor, purchasing ATM equipment, placing your ATM, or setting your surcharge, contact us today!

ATM Business Basic Checklist via ATMDepot.com
Want to start your own ATM Business? Make sure you check off all of the items on this checklist before you get started so that you’re prepared.