Seven Ways to Make Sure You Never Pay an ATM Fee Again

Though carrying around cash is increasingly becoming an outdated habit, there are still times in life when a debit card, credit card, or a digital wallet payment simply won’t suffice.

On those occasions when it’s still necessary to withdraw cash from a bank account, whether it’s to tip a service provider or give your child allowance, the last thing you want to do is pay an ATM fee simply to access your own money.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to avoid these annoying charges, particularly if you plan ahead. We asked banking and personal finance experts from around the country how to avoid wasting another $3 to $6 just to withdraw money.

1. Stay away from out-of-network ATMs.

This should be a no-brainer, but one of the simplest ways to avoid paying a withdrawal fee is to stick to your own bank’s ATMs whenever possible.

“If you belong to a large bank, you can find your nearest branch by searching via the bank’s website or app on your phone,” Rebecca Gramuglia, personal finance expert at TopCashback.com.

2. Switch to a bank that doesn’t have fees.

Yet another way around ATM fees is to change banks altogether if you don’t like the policies at your current financial institution.

“Switch to a bank that doesn’t charge out-of-network ATM fees” said Gramuglia. “For example, Capital One is a major bank that has a handful of checking accounts that give members free access to ATM locations or reimbursements for fees within each statement period.”

Additional banks to consider include Simple and Chime, both of which are online only institutions.

“Most online banks work with large ATM networks that give you access to thousands of fee-free ATMs,” explained Nishank Khanna, chief marketing officer for Clarify Capital.

Chime’s network, for example, includes more than 38,000 fee-free MoneyPass ATMs. Simple, meanwhile, has a fee-free ATM finder on its website and also allows customers to use ATMs in Walmart, Costco, Dunkin Donuts, Walgreens, Hess, Target, and CVS, without being charged a fee.

3. Join a credit union that’s part of the CO-OP ATM network.

Another variation on the choose-your-bank wisely theme, banks that are part of the CO-OP ATM network also offer a large network of fee-free ATMs.

“If you’re a member of a credit union and it’s part of CO-OP ATM network, you will have access to 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs, covering all 50 states and 10 countries,” explained Terry Pierce, senior product manager for CO-OP Financial Services. “CO-OP has the nation’s largest network of surcharge-free ATMs for credit union members, and larger than any commercial bank network — including Bank of America and Chase Bank.”

4. Get cash back at a store.

Countless stores these days provide cash back, at no additional charge, when you make a purchase using a debit card.

“Many grocery stores give cash back up to $100, $200, or even $300,” said Logan Allec, a CPA and creator of the personal finance site Money Done Right. “So, the next time you find yourself in need of some cash, don’t just go to the nearest ATM where you might be hit with a nasty fee. Instead, open a maps app on your phone and find the nearest major grocery store or other large retailer near you.”

You can purchase something as small as a pack of gum in order to obtain cash back, added Allec.

5. Look up your bank’s free ATM agreements.

Joshua Hastings, founder of the site Money.Life.Wax, suggests going online and researching which ATMs your bank allows you to use for free.

“Simply Google search ‘[bank name] free ATMs’ and you can quickly find out where your bank or credit union has agreements to offer their account holders free ATM access,” explained Hastings. “For example, my credit union has an agreement with a popular pharmacy chain and gas station. Their ATMs are fee free so I make sure I always go there.”

6. Leverage your bank’s mobile app.

Most banks have a mobile app that can be used to check your statements, pay bills, and transfer money. But not all consumers realize that such apps can often be used to find fee-free ATM machines, too, said Michael Outar, owner of the personal finance website Savebly.com.

“Simply open up your bank’s mobile app and look for the ATM locator,” Outar said. “By using your smartphone you can always find where the nearest fee-free ATM is located.”

There are also independent apps that are specifically created to help consumers surcharge- free ATMs, says. One example is Allpoint, which is not only an app, but also operates 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs around the world, said Khanna.

7. Stash some cash.

If you’re busy and can’t make frequent trips to your bank or other in-network ATMs, keep some extra cash handy at home or another safe place. That way, if an unexpected luncheon or cash-only activity presents itself, you can grab your rainy-day cash, avoiding the fees associated with using a non-bank ATM, says Elise Yung, senior vice president of Consumer Banking at Axos Bank.

“By and large, it’s good practice to give yourself a ‘meals and entertainment’ budget each month so that you know what you need to set aside,” said Yung. “You should also assume that part of that allotment needs to be in cash since not all establishments take plastic or digital wallets. This will make it easier to plan ahead so that you’re not stuck with a bunch of bank fees for unplanned trips to non-bank ATMs.”

Many of the mistakes people make are due to spur-of-the-moment decisions that can literally cost you, added Yung. Putting yourself on a budget and planning ahead put a significant dent in those excessive ATM fees.

Mia Taylor is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. She has worked for some of the nation’s best-known news organizations, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

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