Using an ATM that’s not run by your bank or credit union will now cost you about as much as a latte at Starbucks. Not a regular at Starbucks?
Then imagine if each time you wanted to take a $20 bill out of your wallet, you had to put a $5 bill through a paper shredder.
That’s essentially what you’re doing when you pay ATM fees — you’re paying to access your money, and it can add up to a lot of waste. Let's say you make one cash transaction a week at an ATM not owned by your financial institution, paying on average, $4.35 per transaction, you'll be paying more than $220 per year in fees. That's a lot of money.
If ATM fees are becoming a costly expense for you, here are some ways to avoid them:
1. Use Your Phone to Find an ATM
The easiest way to avoid ATM fees is to use your bank or credit union’s ATMs, but it’s understandably not always possible or convenient. With the rise in popularity of mobile banking, it’s likely your financial institution has a smartphone app with an ATM-finder function.
Remember to use affiliated ATM networks. There are financial institutions – usually community banks and credit unions – that partner with other financial companies to expand ATM availability without imposing surcharges. For instance, some credit unions, partner with the CO-OP ATM network, which doesn’t impose surcharges for members of partnered credit unions.
2. Get Cash Back
Many stores—including pharmacies, supermarkets, and big-box stores—allow you to use your debit card to get cash back at their registers. You can buy something small, like a bottle of water, candy bar, or pack of gum, and select the cash back option with your debit card.
Voila’ – you just got your cash without paying an ATM fee.
Yes, you’re still paying for something, but wouldn’t you rather pay $3 for snacks you can use than have nothing to show for the $3 you paid to get your money from an ATM? Don’t expect to get a lot of money; many stores have limits on how much you can get at the register.
In the end, this method is likely to cost less than paying an out-of-network ATM fee.
3. Make a Habit of Carrying Cash
If you feel like you’re constantly stuck in situations where you need cash and use an ATM to get it, consider going to the ATM once a week and taking out $100. Be prepared and you won’t need to deal with ATM fees.
Make sure to work your ATM visits into your budget and you’re only taking out the amount of money you’ll need before your next trip to the bank. Know what’s at risk when you’re carrying a lot of cash: If someone steals your wallet, you’re never getting that cash back, but you aren’t necessarily liable for unauthorized credit card and debit card purchases.
4. Know What’s in Your Wallet
Do you absolutely need cash right this second? Before you run to an ATM, find out if the merchant you’re paying accepts credit or debit cards. If not, ask yourself if you need whatever you’re thinking of purchasing. Tack $4 extra onto the price — is it still worth it?
Routinely incurring ATM fees is a sloppy financial habit, but it's one that can be fixed. Start doing things like using your smartphone to locate an ATM and getting in the habit of asking for cash back at retailers and you will be on your way to possibly never paying another ATM fee again.
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