Australia’s Big Four banks have finally bowed to the inevitable and abandoned the practice of charging ATM fees on transactions from off-network competitors.

The fees in question are those that apply to withdrawals from another bank.

The CBA was the first to move, announcing Sunday morning that it was ending the practice. ANZ, NAB and Westpac quickly fell into line. In an age when consumers can email or message each other cash, or transfer it via services like Paypal for a fraction of the cost, or just wave their phones at the cash register on the way out of the shop the banks had no choice.

Last year local consumers made more than 250 million ATM transactions according to the RBA, a good percentage of them attracting fees.

As we have been predicting almost from the day Which-50 began, the entry of new app-based payments competitors has finally brought the great retail banking grift where we pay $2 to get our own $20 bucks back from the bank to an end.

The only question is why it took so long. Ian Narev as much as acknowledged the gig was up three years at the opening of the Commbank’s innovation centre in Darling Harbour when we put the question to him directly.

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In announcing the news today Matt Comyn, Group Executive, Retail Banking Services at the Commbank said, “Australians have complained for some time about being charged fees for using another bank’s ATM.”

“We have been listening to consumer groups and our customers and understand that there’s a need to make changes that benefit all Australians, no matter who they bank with. This is one of the steps we’re taking to make that happen.”

According to Comyn, “As Australia’s largest bank, with one of the largest branch and ATM networks, we think this change will benefit many Australians and hopefully demonstrate our willingness to listen and act on customer feedback.”

Bankwest ATMs will still attract fees and customers using overseas cards will still be pinged.

Meanwhile at ANZ Bank, Group Executive Fred Ohlsson said: “While we had been actively working on how we provide fee free ATMs for our customers, we have decided to remove these fees all together from October.

“We know ATM fees are one of the most unpopular and while our customers have benefitted from our network of ATMs across the country, this is another example of acting on customer feedback as well as genuine reform from the industry,” he said.

Our next prediction: Watch how fast the banks move now to get those ATM’s off their balance sheets.  As we noted back in August 2014 in Four myths retail banks should ignore in the digital age:

“The digital insurgents don’t care about your ATM network – except to the extent that they recognise it as a balance sheet liability. They are working on ways to let us spend money from our iPhones and Google Glasses with a flick of a wrist or the blink of an eye.  Google lets its US customers email each other cash. Within this decade, banks may well be sweating on the cost of exit from the ATM game. Not convinced – go find a phone box on a street corner and call us.”  (Yeah, sorry about the Google glass thing. Our bad.)

An extensive ATM network – once a core bragging right – will soon start to look more like a liability than an asset.

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