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How to Avoid ATM Surcharges

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ATMThe financial reform bill enacted some much needed reform in the banking industry, one of which was a crackdown on the overdraft fees banks charge. Overdraft fees were, and probably will continue to be, a multi-billion dollar revenue stream for banks and with these new regulations, it’s not surprising that the burden of earning that kind of money will fall on other fees. In Bankrate’s recent annual Checking Study, they discovered that ATM surcharges were one of the unlucky carriers.

ATM surcharges have been on the rise, increasing nearly every year since 1998, and this year the surcharge will be, on average, $2.33. It’s an increase from $2.22. (this is the fee an ATM will charge you if you withdraw money with a card outside their network.

Remember, ATM fees rarely come by themselves, they prefer to travel in pairs. The fee that your bank will charge you, for using another ATM, will average $1.41 (from $1.32). So if you use a non-network ATM, expect the other bank to charge you $2.33 and for your bank to charge you $1.41. How do you avoid this?

Carry Alternatives

These days, there are very few places that don’t accept credit and debit cards. Having one means you always have access to purchasing power and will almost never be forced to use an out of network ATM. You can avoid ATM surcharges if you avoid using the ATM entirely!

Use a Bank that Refunds ATM Fees

Many smaller banks, and some large ones, refund ATM fees. They recognize that their network of ATMs is too small and they’re, in effect, expanding their network by refunding a certain number of fees each month for customers that meet requirements, like a minimum balance. The Consumerist had a list of banks that refund ATM fees that dates back to 2008 so that’s a good starting point.

Check the Network

You will only be charged a fee if you leave the ATM network. For example, ING Direct’s Electric Orange checking accounts are surcharge-free if you use an ATM in the Allpoint network. If the ATM sports an Allpoint logo then you won’t be charged a fee for using it, even if the ATM warns you that there is a charge. (Allpoint states that “If the surcharge screen appears during your ATM transaction, press “yes” to accept the surcharge and proceed with your withdrawal. You will not be charged the surcharge or Allpoint will refund your money.”)

Use a Large Bank

The final solution to avoiding surcharges is to find a large bank with branches and ATMs everywhere. One of the reasons why we still use Bank of America is because their branches and ATMs are ubiquitous. I can’t go anywhere without being within spitting distance of a Bank of America branch and ATM, which is great for avoiding fees. Many of the large banks have large footprints like BoA and it’s great for avoiding fees.

With a little preparation you can avoid being dinged fees for being caught out of sorts and using a non-network ATM. The fees don’t seem like much, a couple bucks here and a couple bucks there, but is that really how you wanted to spend your hard earned money? Probably not.

(Photo: redspotted)

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8 Responses to “How to Avoid ATM Surcharges”

  1. Casey says:

    Don’t forget another old trick for avoiding ATM fees: as long as your bank doesn’t charge a fee for debit card purchases with cash back, you can look for a grocery store or drug store. Pick up something inexpensive you need anyway (if I’m on the road, I’m a fan of picking up some fresh fruit to eat), get cash back, and you’ve avoided the ATM fee! It’s not always possible, but when visiting friends in another city, it’s a great way to get cash fee-free.

    • live green says:

      This is the method I use when I don’t want to waste my money on ATM fees. I just buy something for a small amount and you get the money at no charge. Even though you have to buy something, at least you get something in return.

      • Courtney says:

        We do this too – I usually get either a birthday card or a toiletry that we will eventually need another of. Had to do it Labor Day weekend when we were visiting friends in West Virginia, since it turns out that Bank of America is really only Bank of 49 States.

  2. cubiclegeoff says:

    Cash back on debit is always good.

    My bank reimburses my ATM fees up to a certain amount. Since I use my ATM about once a year, this works out fine.

  3. zapeta says:

    My bank refunds ATM fees as long as I meet the monthly rewards checking requirements. Normally I get any cash I need by doing a debit purchase and getting cash back.

  4. Yana says:

    I never use a non-bank ATM, because I refuse to pay a fee of any kind for banking. It so happens that my favorite grocery store has my bank’s ATM in it, but if that is not where I am, I can use ING’s card at 7-11 and Charles Schwab bank’s card anywhere, as they refund any fee.

  5. jsbrendog says:

    this is not a problem in the ny metro area when one has chase

  6. Corina says:

    We have become so reliant on ATM’s and our debits and credits that many of us don’t carry cash around, which can end up costing us in certain situations when we might need it most. You have provided some great tips on avoiding ATM charges but I feel the most important thing is to always have cash on you.


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