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Don’t Buy This: Only Suckers Pay ATM Fees

There's really no reason to pay an ATM fee ever again.

by Gina Ragusa
Aug 6 2018, 5:00pm

Photo collage by Lia Kantrowitz

You work hard for your money, so paying ATM charges of $3 or more every time you withdraw cash is sure to make you see red. And make no mistake, banks are getting richer every time you shell out: The three biggest banks alone pocketed $6.4 billion in ATM and overdraft fees in 2016.

ATM fees are a total racket. You could easily spend $5 for a single ATM transaction at another bank when you factor in both the out-of-network fee from your bank as well as the ATM fee charged by whichever bank's machine you use. The average American pays $329 a year in bank fees just to access their own money, according to 2017 report by Chime Bank.

The good news is that you can avoid these fees with a little advance planning. Here’s how:

Find free ATMs on the fly

Instead of rushing over to the nearest ATM when you’re low on funds, find out where you can withdraw your money for free using the ATM locator on your bank’s website or app. (Here they are from Bank of America, Chase and Citibank.) If you belong to a credit union, there will likely be fewer branded ATMs, but you’ll still likely have access to thousands of surcharge free ATMs. Here are the ATM locators for Alliant and Connexus as examples.) The trick is knowing where to find them.

Go on an ATM diet

Plan ahead and withdraw cash a few times a month instead of just taking $40 out from a random ATM every time you need cash. This works well if you have an online bank like Ally that only reimburses a small amount of out-of-network fees. Many grocery stores also let you withdraw extra cash on top of your purchase to save you a trip to the ATM. Just remember not to use your debit card for every purchase since credit cards offer stronger protections and many earn cash back—saving you even more money.

Get a better bank

Some banks either reimburse a set amount of out-of-network fees or never charge you for them at all. A few examples, recommended by NerdWallet and ValuePenguin, include:

  • Alliant Credit Union has a network of 80,000 surcharge free ATMs and reimburses up to $20 per month for out-of-network fees.
  • Ally Bank has 43,000 free ATMs through the AllPoint network and reimburses up to $10 in ATM fees a month in out-of-network fees.
  • Aspiration Bank charges no fees for using any ATM in the world with their Aspiration Summit Account.
  • Bank of Internet USA offers unlimited ATM fee reimbursements in the US.
  • Charles Schwab Bank offers unlimited ATM reimbursements worldwide when you use any out-of-network ATM.

As for banks that fleece you on ATM fees? Bank of America, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo all charge fat out-of-network fees. Here’s a longer list of banks with high-ATM fees from ValuePenguin.

Follow Gina Ragusa on Twitter.

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