Starting in March, consumers in rural Australia may pay more for ATM withdrawals than urban consumers, according to an analyst and a consumer-advocacy group. ATM owners on 3 March can start charging customers directly for using cash machines under rules changes imposed by the Reserve Bank of Australia. Under the current system, ATM owners typically collect those charges through consumers' banks, which can pass the costs on to their cardholders and impose their own fees. The revisions also require ATM owners to disclose the fees for using their machines before transactions occur. Backers say the revisions will lower ATM fees for many consumers through increased transparency and competition. The Consumer Action Law Centre, however, worries that ATM charges will be higher in rural areas because of the relative scarcity of cash machines outside cities. Peter Arnold, a financial analyst with Australia-based Canstar Cannex, tells CardLine Global he shares that concern. "In the city, there are often several ATMs within walking distance, so they will all need to charge a similar fee in fear of not getting used," he says. "In the country, an ATM may be the only one for a long way, so there would be nothing stopping [the owner from] charging a much higher price, as people will not have the option of walking elsewhere."

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