If seeing a “cash only” sign causes you to roll your eyes and heave a heavy sigh, it could be because you’ve developed a healthy aversion to ATM fees.
Depending on where you bank and what ATMs are nearby, you could end up paying much more than you need to when withdrawing your money. If the ATM is out of network, fees can run anywhere from $2.50 to $5 or more just for one transaction.
Fortunately, you can save money on ATM fees if you plan ahead. Here’s a breakdown of how ATM fees are determined, along with ways to avoid getting stuck giving over cash to access your cash.
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What Are ATM Fees?
Bank account holders typically pay no fees for using in-network ATMs. However, these machines may not always be conveniently located.
Indeed, more than half of ATMs today are owned and serviced by independent operators and their affiliates—not banks. If you use an out-of-network ATM, you could end up paying a fee to your bank, as well as a fee to the ATM operator.
The total cost of using an ATM that’s not part of your bank’s network now averages around $4.64, according to a recent Bankrate survey. In some cases, you could pay even more.
Here are some typical fees charged for using an ATM:
This fee can be charged by your bank for using a non-branded or non-partner ATM. It’s kind of like going to a doctor that’s not on your insurance plan—you might be able to do it, but it could be more expensive.
On average, this charge accounts for about $1.50 of the total fee, according to Bankrate. The fee can apply to any type of transaction performed at an ATM, including withdrawals, transfers, and even balance inquiries. Typically, you won’t be told about such fees at any time during your ATM transaction.
This one comes from the ATM owner, and is often labeled as a “convenience charge.” The average U.S. surcharge currently runs just over $3. However, surcharges can vary by state and venue, and you may encounter higher amounts in places where ATMs are in greater demand.
If you’re at an entertainment venue in a popular tourist destination, for instance, you could pay as much as $25.
When using an ATM that isn’t part of your bank’s network of machines, the machine usually notifies you about a fee charged by the bank or company that operates the ATM.
Foreign ATM Fees
Traveling overseas can come with even more watch-outs, such as foreign transaction fees on both purchases and ATM withdrawals.
Taking out money at a foreign ATM can incur a fee of around 1% to 3% of the transaction amount. Some financial institutions, however, have no foreign transaction fees, and can be worth looking at if you frequently travel overseas.
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How to Steer Clear of ATM Fees
If having to pay money to access your money grinds your gears, there’s some good news—it is possible to avoid ATM fees or at least encounter them less frequently.
Here are some strategies:
Scouting out ATMs in Advance
Finding out where your financial institution’s in-network ATMs are located in your area, or where you are traveling to, can save you money and hassle. These may be ATMs branded with the institution’s name and logo, or in a network of partner ATMs, such as Allpoint or Star . You can research this on your bank’s website or app.
Getting Extra Cash When You Go
Fees are typically charged per transaction, so one way to avoid charges is to withdraw more cash than you need whenever you go to the ATM, and then keeping it in a safe place. This can yield significant savings when you are traveling overseas, where surcharges can be significantly higher than domestic ATM fees. You may want to keep in mind, however, that there are usually some ATM withdrawal limits.
Asking for Cash Back at the Register
Many retailers and convenience stores offer cash back when you make a purchase using your debit card. This can be a convenient way to get cash without paying an ATM fee. It can be a good idea, however, to make sure that neither the retailer, nor your bank charges a cash-back fee.
Switching to 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.
Online banks often have generous policies regarding ATM fees. They typically don’t have their own ATM networks, but will partner with large networks, like Allpoint, and may refund some fees charged by out-of-network ATM providers.
Using a Peer-to-Peer Payment App
With a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app, like Venmo, or a similar service offered by your financial institution, you can easily pay your friends without cash with just a few taps on your phone-–and avoid a trip to the ATM entirely.
If you need cash and the nearest ATM is not in your bank’s network, you may end up paying a fee to your bank, plus a fee to the ATM provider, which can total around $5.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid paying ATM fees. One is to always make sure you are taking money out of one of your banks branded ATMs or one of their partner networks.
Other options include asking for cash back when you make a purchase, using a peer-to-peer payment app, or switching to a bank that doesn’t charge ATM fees and even refunds fees charged by ATM providers.
Avoid Fees With a SoFi Checking and Savings®
Another easy way to avoid ATM fees, as well as many other annoying fees, is to open a checking and savings account with SoFi Checking and Savings®
SoFi Checking and Savings offers free ATMs at 55,000+ locations worldwide. Plus, users can make quick and easy (and free) P2P payments right through the SoFi app.
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