Whether it be out of laziness or ignorance, we continue to pay ATM fees – and the seemingly insignificant charges can add up over time.
If you’re using one of the traditional “big banks” you’ll likely get hit with two fees if you don’t use their machine: one from the ATM for the privilege of withdrawing cash, and one from your own bank for going out-of-network.
Thanks to the double charge, consumers these days are paying an average of $4.35 each time they use an out-of-network ATM.
The good news is that these fees are easily preventable. Never pay an ATM fee again by following these basics:
Use your bank’s ATM.
The simplest way to avoid fees is to withdraw cash from your bank’s ATM. A good rule of thumb: “If it’s not your bank’s logo, don’t use it,” says Nick Clements, co-founder of Magnify Money, a free, independent service that provides unbiased comparisons of financial products.
“The traditional bigger banks have invested heavily in building very large branch and ATM networks,” he tells Business Insider. “If you use their network, it’s free. If you don’t use their network it can get really expensive.”
If you live in a major city and use one of the traditional, bigger banks, there should be various ATM options nearby. Start by checking the online location pages for banks like Bank of America, Citi, Chase, and Wells Fargo, and put in the extra effort to get one of your bank’s ATM machines. You can also look up the locations on your smartphone using the bank’s mobile app.
If your bank doesn’t have convenient ATM options – or if you live in a smaller town with fewer ATMs – you may want to consider opening a checking account with a more accessible or online bank (more on that in a minute).
Get cash back.
Most grocery and convenience stores allow you to get cash back following a purchase with your debit card. It would be much more economical to go buy a pack of gum and ask for cash back than use a third-party ATM machine and get charged $2.50 or more. Or, make a habit out of asking for cash back after your weekly trip to the grocery store or Target.
This is the one “loophole” when it comes to ATM fees, Clements explains, as you don’t get charged for this.
However, if you’re relying on this option, keep in mind that most stores put a cap on how much you can get at the register: typically $40.
Find a bank that doesn’t have fees.
If you’re open to switching banks, online banks such as Ally and Bank of the Internet reimburse you for ATM fees, since they don’t operate their own machines. For holders of the “High Yield Investor Checking Account,” Charles Schwab does the same, and even reimburses for international withdrawals (although to get this checking in the first place, you also need a Schwab brokerage account).
Not every online-only bank treats ATM fees the same way – some only reimburse fees up to a certain amount each month, for example – so make sure you know the policies before committing.
While these online banks can save you on ATM fees – and tend to offer higher interest rates for their savings accounts – Clements notes that if you have to make a lot of cash deposits, this may not be the best option for you, as you can’t deposit cash into internet-only banks.
- TORSTEN BLACKWOOD / Getty Images
Plan ahead and withdraw more cash.
If you find yourself stuck in cash-only situations often, and tend to use a non-bank ATM, consider withdrawing a larger amount of cash once a week. You’ll be set for several days and won’t have to worry about ATM fees popping up at inconvenient times.
Make sure it fits into your budget, and don’t withdraw more than you need – after avoiding ATM fees, you don’t want to start paying for overdraft fees.