Fee-Free ATMs May Be Coming to Your City, but Get Ready for Ads While You Wait

One New York City company plans to roll out thousands of fee-free ATMs at grocery stores, at gas stations and on street corners across the country. Instead of paying a few bucks every time they want cash, consumers will watch an advertisement.

The company, called Free ATMs NYC, so far is seeing success at a local music venue and bar and plans to expand by year's end.

CEO Clinton Townsend says the company will start in big cities before working its way into suburban communities. In order to saturate the market with free ATMs, he needs advertisers with deep pockets to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the machines.

"We have had interest from all over the world, all different types of businesses, from mom-and-pop-type businesses to small businesses, as well as national advertisers for national brands," Townsend said.

The company thinks it has an edge on billboards and popups because it has a captive audience. Consumers will stand at the ATM and watch the ads while they wait on their cash. Townsend says the transactions on his machines will not take any longer than a typical ATM. If someone doesn't want to watch the ads, they can opt out and pay a fee instead.

While you won't be charged by the company at the ATM, your bank could still charge you on the back end.

Janna Herron, an expert from financial research firm Bankrate, says other independent cash businesses and big banks may follow suit and quit charging fees, too. However, she warns banks would have to make up for the lost revenue somehow.

"I definitely think that banks will start trying to find other ways to charge customers," Herron said. "It might be new fees, a maintenance fee for your checking account, a debit card usage fee, but they are not going to take a loss in revenue."