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!

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