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Avoid Bank Tellers, Save Cash

As banks continue to push the self-serve approach, many consumers are finding it may cheaper to get service without a smile.

A growing number of banks are adding feature-laden ATMs, video tellers and other technologies to let customers complete a wider variety of banking tasks on their own, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. For example, you might be able to purchase a money order or withdraw cash in increments other than $20 bills.  Some banks estimate they have cut costs by up to 40% by trading tellers for technology.

Experts say banking customers who prefer seeing a teller won’t pay more than they currently are for the privilege. Since banks still use branches as sales floors to push everything from credit cards to savings accounts, they’re unlikely to stop making tellers available, says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for rate-tracker Bankrate.com.

More likely, they say, consumers will see banks waive fees for do-it-yourself banking. “Some accounts are designed for more self-service,” McBride says. For example, Bank of America’s eBanking account is free for accountholders who choose emailed statements and use ATMs and online access to make deposits and withdrawals. Want to use a teller? The usual $8.95 monthly fee kicks back in.

Most consumers can switch to teller-less banking easily, says Stephanie Wei, vice president of deposit products for NerdWallet.com, a comparison site. But she adds there are still a few cases where it’s usually better to seek out help from a professional, such as arranging wire transfers, ordering foreign currency or obtaining a signature guarantee. A teller is also the best option for any task that needs immediate processing: ATMs may not process checks deposited until the end of the day, while a teller can often make funds available immediately.

Even if there’s no fee waiver at hand, accountholders can still benefit from the new technology. Chase said it saw a 40% reduction in lines at locations testing its new high-tech ATMs, reports the Journal.

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