Seafirst Adds Noncustomer ATM Fee -- Bank Is First In State To Implement Extra Charge For Cash-Machine Use

Seafirst Bank, which pioneered cash machines in the 1970s and worked tirelessly to promote their use, sent a new message to consumers: If you want cash, don't use the bank's machines unless you're a Seafirst customer.

Starting Nov. 17, the state's largest bank will charge $1.50 every time somebody uses an ATM card not issued by Seafirst in a machine at one of the bank's 228 branches. The fee will not be imposed if Seafirst cards are used.

The fee is in addition to any charge the customer's own bank imposes for automated-teller-machine withdrawals. That means some consumers will be charged twice by two different banks.

For now, the $1.50 fee applies only to ATM withdrawals at traditional Seafirst branches. The bank said it will impose the fee later at its 497 cash machines in supermarket branches, retail stores, shopping centers and other locations. Seafirst customers who use the bank's nonbranch machines currently pay $1.50.

"We have invested heavily in our extensive ATM network primarily for the benefit of our own customers," Terry Mix, executive vice president and manager of retail banking, said yesterday.

The charge is intended to pass those costs to noncustomers while encouraging them to become customers, said David Jimenez, a bank spokesman.

Key Bank, the state's second-largest bank, said it will impose a fee of $1 per cash withdrawal in mid-November at about 250 nonbranch ATMs in the state.

"We think people are willing to pay a nominal fee for convenience," Rob Gill spokesman said.

Some cash machines in casinos, resort areas, convenience stores and truck stops began adding withdrawal fees last spring.

Seafirst said its parent company, BankAmerica, is imposing the same $1.50 fee in California, Oregon, Idaho and Hawaii.