How to Avoid ATM Fees

June 08, 2021 · 5 minute read

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How to Avoid ATM Fees

Paying an ATM fee is one of those evils that seems to hit a universal nerve. It can seem annoying, if not downright unfair, to hand over some of your hard-earned cash to a bank—or even worse, a nondescript convenience-store machine—just to get access to your own cash.

To make matters worse, it’s not uncommon to get charged twice if you go to an ATM outside your bank’s network.

First, you may be charged a fee by the owner of the ATM you’re using, known as an ATM operator fee. This can run anywhere from $1.50 to as much as $10.00, depending on the ATM. The ATM operator could be a different bank or another type of business entirely.

On top of that, your own bank may charge you a “non-network” ATM fee (often between $2.00 and $3.50) for using an ATM operated by another bank or institution. For international transactions, you will often pay higher fees on cash withdrawals.

Due to these double fees, hitting an out-of-network ATM on a regular basis can quickly put a dent in your spending account. While ATM providers aren’t likely to stop charging fees to use their machines, we have some tips that could help you avoid paying them.

Planning Ahead

Whenever possible, consider planning in advance for those times you know you’ll need cash. If you know you might need cash to cover parking or other costs associated with an outing, such as camping, concerts, sporting events, or fairs, it can be a good idea to make a stop at your bank’s ATM before you head out.

That way you can avoid being up-charged at an ATM at the venue or campground. Some independent restaurants and bakeries still operate as cash-only businesses, so if you’re testing out a new spot, you may want to check the website so you’re prepared with cash if needed.

Using Your Bank’s ATMs

Taking some time to familiarize yourself with your bank’s closest ATM locations (considering both home and work) can save you money and hassle down the line. There may be a location finder tool on the bank’s website or app, or you can do a general web search, or even use your phone’s maps app.

Generally, the larger, national banks will have more options for branded ATMs than smaller, regional institutions. Banks of all sizes, however, often partner with large ATM networks in order to expand their customers’ options and provide them with a fee-free banking experience.

Finding Partner ATMs

The biggest advantage of partnership networks is the potentially vast number of fee-free ATM locations available. Some of the largest networks even include ATMs in locations like convenience stores, pharmacies, and retailers.

If your bank partners with an ATM network, you may be able to perform transactions at these ATMs without getting hit with any fees from your bank, though some locations may collect ATM surcharges.

The easiest way to find your bank’s partners is to check the back of your debit card. If you see a logo for Allpoint , for example, you can search their app for the closest locations.

This doesn’t automatically mean that your transaction will be entirely fee-free, but either your bank or the partner may waive charges. It’s a good idea to check with your bank for details.

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Taking Out More Than You Need

Fees are typically per transaction, so one easy way to potentially avoid multiple charges is to withdraw more cash than you need. This is particularly true when traveling overseas, where surcharges can be significantly higher than domestic ATM fees.

The downside is that you may feel uncomfortable keeping a bunch of cash on hand.

Getting Cash Back

Answering “yes” to the ubiquitous question, “Do you want cash back?” is one of the most convenient ways to get cash without incurring bank fees. Though of course, you’ll want to make sure neither your bank nor the retailer charges a cash back fee.

Many retailers and convenience stores offer cash back, and even if it means having to buy a pack of gum so you can get cash, it still may be cheaper than paying an ATM fee.

Choosing a Different Bank

Not all banks charge out-of-network ATM fees. If you’re getting hit with fees, especially double fees, you may want to consider switching to an institution that has a larger ATM network, doesn’t charge ATM fees, and/or refunds ATM fees charged by machine providers.

Some banks will reimburse up to a certain amount every month in fees charged by an out-of-network provider. If you suspect you’ll use non-network ATMs frequently, you may want to consider a bank that will refund you.

Using Personal Payment Apps to Pay Your Friends

With peer-to-peer (P2P) payment–the ability to send money to friends and family using an app on a mobile device–you can often avoid a trip to the ATM entirely.

Apps like Venmo can be set up to sync with your financial institution and allow you to move money directly from your account to your friends’ accounts. Paying friends without cash has become so popular, many traditional banks are also offering similar services.

The Takeaway

ATM fees can be annoying and add up quickly. But, fortunately, this is usually an avoidable expense.

One way to avoid ATM fees is to do some research on where your financial institution’s branded ATMs are located in your area, as well as their partner networks. Other options include using peer-to-peer payment systems or asking for cashback at a retail cash register when it’s available.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account

Another easy way to avoid ATM fees, as well as many other common fees, is to open a checking and savings account with SoFi.

SoFi Checking and Savings allow users to withdraw cash at 55,000+ ATMs worldwide without paying any fees. Users can also easily make P2P payments right through the SoFi app.

Ready to say goodbye to ATM fees? Say hello to SoFi Checking and Savings.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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