THE most hated of all bank charges - the ATM fee - is set to be consigned to history in what would be a $500 million a year win for consumers.
The catalyst is a shock move by the Commonwealth which is making its 3400 ATMs fee-free for any user, regardless of who they bank with, from today.
Axing the current $2 charge for non-CBA customers will cost the nation's biggest bank tens of millions of dollars annually and puts its rivals under extreme pressure to follow suit.
Consumer group Choice's spokesman Tom Godfrey said the decision could trigger the death of the ATM fee.
"Accessing your money from a bank account is an essential service that should be free for everyone, rather than an inconvenience with a penalty attached,'' Mr Godfrey said.
"The move by the Commonwealth Bank to stop charging non-customers to withdraw money is a win for consumers and sends a clear message to other banks that it's time to axe these fees."
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison also urged Westpac, ANZ and NAB to respond.
"I will always welcome positive initiatives from banks that put customers first, and this is one of them," Mr Morrison said.
"So well done Commonwealth Bank. The ball is now in the court of CBA's competitors to match them."
Australians forked out about $500 million in fees in the past year for withdrawals from ATMs owned by institutions other than their own, News Corp Australia analysis of RBA data finds.
Women and young adults are more likely to pay the charge rather than trek to their own bank, according to surveys by financial product comparison websites.
About 40 per cent of the 50 million cash machine withdrawals each day has a charge attached.
CBA's group executive of retail banking services Matt Comyn said ATM fees had long been "unpopular" and consumers were fed up with been stung.
Research by other lenders has found cash machine charges are the most loathed of all bank fees.
"It's very unpopular and I'm sure people will be happy that they no longer have to pay it and to have access to the largest ATM network in the country for free has to be a good thing," Mr Comyn said.
"It's hopefully a small but significant change and positive step that will impact all Australians."
From today, users of CBA ATMs will be alerted that withdrawals will be free of charge.
The Commonwealth's surprise move comes after a horror run of negative publicity including scandals in its insurance and financial planning divisions. It is also facing Federal Court proceedings in which the Australian Transactions Reports and Analysis Centre alleges the bank failed to assess the risk of money laundering or terrorism financing via deposit machines. AUSTRAC claims the bank failed to comply with the law on 53,700 occasions.