The party's over for people who have been using Washington Mutual ATMs for free without having an account there.

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The party’s over for people who have been using Washington Mutual ATMs for free without having an account there.

On Nov. 17, WaMu will begin charging non-customers to use its ATMs—$1.50 in Washington, California and most other states; $2 in Oregon, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Nevada.

A WaMu spokeswoman said lines have gotten long at some ATMs because of the company’s long-standing no-fee policy.

“This is something we’re doing for our customers,” Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot said. “In some markets, we have hour-long wait lines. Why should customers have to wait in line for people who aren’t our customers?”

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WaMu figures its ATMs get 2.5 times more traffic than those of its competitors, partly because of the no-fee policy. The thrift has never charged non-customers for using its ATMs in Washington and Oregon; it instituted the no-fee policy in other states five years ago.

Donahoe-Wilmot said the fee income generated by the new surcharge will be “modest,” and that it will go toward expanding and upgrading WaMu’s system of more than 3,500 ATMs nationwide.

Currently, all of WaMu’s ATMs handle transactions in English and Spanish. By the end of 2006, the company expects that most of them will to communicate in Chinese and Russian as well.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com