Students with accounts at TD Bank must now travel to Hannaford to withdraw cash without incurring fees. The bank did not renew its agreement with the College for the two ATMs it has operated on campus since 2005.
Instead, Bank of America and Midcoast Federal Credit Union will have ATMs in Smith Union and the Thorne-Coles Tower lobby, respectively.
It's not clear why TD Bank abdicated its ATMs; a spokesperson for TD Bank called it a "business decision," but did not provide further details.
In 2005, TD Bank inked a contract with Bowdoin for two-and-half years, and then signed on for an additional three years in 2007. But when that contract expired in July 2010, the bank didn't renew.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Catherine Longley said, "We thought they might keep one ATM, but at the last minute they chose not to."
Longley explained that the College signs non-monetary agreements with financial institutions so that students can access ATMs—in other words, the banks don't pay Bowdoin for the right to have ATMs on campus.
"There is no payment at all," she said. "It's at their expense—they have to load it with money, maintain the machine, keep it going—but in return they get to keep all the revenue."
According to Longley, Bowdoin conducts the majority of its business with three banks: TD Bank, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase. Nonetheless, her office used an egalitarian method in seeking replacement ATMs.
"We bid to every bank and credit union in Brunswick," she said. "We sent out 10 letters describing our banking needs, and two were interested. Neither of them wanted two ATMs—each wanted one—so we split them up."
When asked if the College considered that those students with TD Bank accounts would be upset over the prospect of paying foreign transaction fees at the new ATMs, Longley responded: "We were mindful of that and tried to get the word out...to students over the summer. Our recommendation is that if they don't want to incur that fee, they can go downtown, at Hannaford. If Hannaford is an inconvenience, they can change their account, but they really don't need to."
To gauge the impact of the charges on students, the Orient conducted a survey, advertised through e-mail, and 22 percent of students, or 376 people, responded. Forty-four percent of respondents said they had an account with TD Bank, while 39 percent said they had an account with Bank of America. Only four respondents had accounts with Midcoast. Of those with TD Bank accounts, 133 people, or 35 percent of all respondents, said they had opened their accounts because of the TD Bank ATMs.
John Mortelliti '13, of Syracuse, NY, was one of those respondents who, upon matriculating at Bowdoin, picked TD Bank. He said that "after having a nice and successful year with TD Bank," he was "not happy" to return to Bowdoin only to discover a switch had occurred. Like many respondents in the survey, he missed the notifications Longley posted in the Student Digest during the summer.
Other individuals, too, complained that the College did a poor job of informing students. First year Eric Ramsay said that he didn't know until move-in day, when he found that the TD Bank ATMs had disappeared.
"I opened an account [with TD Bank] about three weeks before school started," he said. "Bowdoin should have done a better job of alerting us before we arrived."
Mortelliti said he was told by a TD Bank employee at Hannaford that the ATMs at Bowdoin were not getting traffic comparable to that at the Hannaford location.
"But I am skeptical that more students were walking to Hannaford than using the ATMs on campus—it doesn't make sense," Mortelliti said.
While the change is an inconvenience to Mortelliti and other TD Bank account holders, many students with Bank of America accounts were, of course, pleased.
"People with TD Bank have had the luxury [the] past two years of going to the Tower for money while I walked downtown to get mine," wrote one member of the Class of 2012. "I think it is great they are making the change and allowing students with other banks the opportunity for easy access to ATMs on campus."
Those students not affiliated with any of the aforementioned banks may be pleasantly surprised when the Midcoast ATM commences operation next week: Whereas the old TD Bank ATMs charged a $3 foreign-transaction fee, Midcoast only charges $1.50. The new Bank of America ATM has a $3 fee; a spokesperson for the bank indicated there were no plans to lower this charge at Bowdoin in order to remain competitive with Midcoast.
Lori Saucier, vice president of marketing at Midcoast, said the credit union "jumped at the opportunity" to establish a presence at Bowdoin, and tabled on campus on August 24, 28, and September 3. "We did open up a few accounts," Saucier said of the outreach effort.
Saucier was surprised that only two Brunswick financial institutions wanted ATMs on campus. "I can't imagine why others wouldn't," she said.
"Now that we are on the campus, we hope to have a sustained presence," Saucier added.
Should students worry, however, that if they open an account at Midcoast, the credit union might abandon them like TD Bank did? As it happens, the Midcoast contract is for a three-year term. But students with Bank of America accounts should not get too used to their new ATM—the Bank of America agreement is only for two years.