How to Avoid ATM Fees

I rarely use cash anymore, but it is inevitable that we all need cash for something at one time or another. To make sure you don’t get stuck throwing away money on ATM fees, plan ahead or follow these tips.

Fees Suck

Do you really want to just give away your hard-earned money for convenience? I sure don’t. Most banks charge a fee to use their ATMs if you are not a customer, and your bank most likely charges a fee to use an out-of-network ATM.

Most banks charge at least $2-$4 to use their ATM, and most banks charge their customers about $2 to use other bank’s ATMs. In total, that is about $4 per ATM use. If you do a “quick cash” for $40, that is a $4 fee on $40, or 10%!

According to Statistic Brain, the average customer uses an ATM 7.4 times per month. Using out-of-network ATMs each time will cost you about $28 per month or $336 per year.

Just Use a Card

Almost every business allows you to use a credit or debit card and does not charge for that. Plus, using a good card you can get free flights. I use cash as little as possible to increase my mileage earnings.

If you are not an envelope method budgeter, just skip the cash and the hassles involved.

If You Need Cash

If you absolutely must use cash, which you probably don’t, here are some tips to avoid the ATM fees:

Get a No-Fee Bank Account

I use Charles Schwab Bank, and they don’t charge for using out-of-network ATMs. In fact, they refund other bank’s ATM fees anywhere in the world. When I needed Pounds and Euros during my last trip to the other side of the pond, I used my Schwab ATM card with no worries or problems.

Plan Ahead

Plan ahead and get the cash you need before you need it. Rather than getting stuck with a fee in a pinch, get enough cash at your bank’s ATM ahead of time to cover any potential need.

Because I use so little cash, I only keep $20-$40 on me at any given time for emergencies. When that goes away, I re-stock to make sure I am covered.

Know Where You Can Get Free Cash

Know where your bank has ATMs and try to get to those first. You can use your bank’s ATM locator on their website or do a quick search with your smart phone. If you have a bank where ATMs are widely available, it shouldn’t be too tough to find one.

How Do You Avoid Fees?

What do you do to avoid ATM fees? Please share your strategy in the comments.

Image by brh_images / flickr. Originally posted March 18, 2009. Updated January 4, 2013.

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Comments

  1. Emily @ evolvingPF says

    We use Ally and have the same deal as you. When we (rarely) need cash we use any ATM we want and the fees are fully refunded.

  2. PF Beat says

    I used to have Schwab checking and one of the main reasons I got it was for the free ATMs. I closed that account once I opened up ING, and now it’s a little trickier, but not so bad. I live in NYC, and there are a ton of Walgreens and other pharmacies where my card is accepted for free, and now that CapitalOne just acquired ING, I can use their ATMs as well.

    This only really becomes an issue when I’m out of town and need cash in a pinch, and it’s at that point that I really do miss my Schwab checking account!

    • says

      I agree 100%. There are so many great banking options today, but a lot of people just stay with what they have always done, which is not always the best choice.

  3. says

    Use your debit card to buy groceries and get “cash back”. Anywhere from $20-$100. Place the cash in your wallet. You will amazed the next time you NEED cash. And, this cash came with no fees.