“Banks often move like a school of fish on ATM fees,” he said. “If history is a guide, others will follow Bank of America soon.” McBride pointed out, however, that consumers don’t have to pay surcharges if they’re careful with ATM withdrawals. “You can avoid them by using your own bank,” he said, adding that most financial institutions post the locations of their ATMs on their Web sites. Another way to avoid surcharges is to use a debit card when making a purchase and ask for cash back at the point of sale. “That’s tantamount to a free ATM withdrawal,” McBride said. The study, which is an annual look at interest rates and fees at some 250 banking institutions nationwide, also found that interest-paying checking accounts are often not as good a deal for consumers as non-interest accounts. That’s because “balance thresholds for interest checking accounts are exorbitant and the yield you get in return is paltry,” McBride said. The study found that consumers needed to have nearly $990 on deposit in an account to qualify for interest payments averaging just 0.32 percent. The opening balance requirement is more than double the $430 found just 18 months ago, it said. Meanwhile, the interest-paying accounts socked consumers with monthly service fees of $11.72 if they didn’t maintain balances of at least $3,316.60. Non-interest accounts generally required deposits averaging just $83 to open, the study said. The average monthly service fee was $2.26 – and it could be avoided by maintaining a balance of just $155.49, the study found. McBride said consumers would get much better returns by putting their money in high-yielding money market or online savings accounts than in interest-paying checking accounts. “Keeping $3,316.60 in an interest-bearing account at a yield of 0.32 percent earns just $10.61 in interest for the whole year,” he pointed out. “The same $3,316.60 deposited into a high-yielding money market or savings account at 5 percent would earn more than $160 in interest over the course of a year.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! By Eileen Alt Powell THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Getting money from an automated teller machine can be costly, especially if the ATM isn’t owned by the bank where you have your checking or savings account. A survey released Tuesday by Bankrate .com, an online financial information service based in North Palm Beach, Fla., found that the average surcharge for use of a “foreign” ATM has risen to a record $1.78 from the previous high of $1.64 a year ago. The most common fee has jumped to $2 from $1.50, and at least one bank is charging $3 per transaction. In addition, a consumer’s own bank is likely to tack on an additional $1.25 when a consumers uses another bank’s ATM. At the prevailing rates, consumers will pay nearly $4.4 billion in ATM fees this year, Bankrate.com estimated. The study also found that the average bounced check fee has hit a new high of $28.23, up from $27.40 last fall. Greg McBride, senior financial analyst with Bankrate.com, said he won’t be surprised to see ATM surcharges increase nationwide following the recent move by Bank of America Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., to raise its fee to $3.