Save Money on Those Pesky ATM Fees
These fees have reached record highs; here’s how to fight back
ATMs give us cash when we need it — sometimes at a price. The average out-of-network ATM fee is now a hefty $2.77. In Bankrate’s recent report on cities with the highest and lowest ATM fees, that average has climbed to $3.00 or more in some areas.
Fees may be even higher at places like airports and amusement parks, where the price is linked to the competition (or lack of it), according to a General Accounting Office report. Overseas, it's often $5.00 or more a pop.
You can expect to take a hit when using an ATM from a bank other than your own. That bank will charge you a fee — but your own bank may take another cut. The law requires the out-of-network bank to tell you how much you’re about to pay for your cash (so you can cancel the withdrawal if the fee seems too high), but it doesn’t tell you how much your bank will charge. That info is buried somewhere in reams of bank disclosure documents (average length, 44 pages, according to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts report).
If your bank’s fee is comparable to the out-of-network bank’s, you may be paying up to $6 just to get $20 or $40 in cash.
A dollar earned, dollar saved…
Tired of losing money? Follow these tips to keep more of your hard-earned cash in your own hands.
- Find a bank or credit union that won’t slam you with ATM charges. Try using this checking account comparison tool from the financial literacy organization NerdWallet.
- Download an app that tells you where to find surcharge-free ATM machines. Many banks also have apps that will help you locate an in-network ATM.
- Consider a bank that is strictly online. There are pluses and minuses to online-only banks. One plus is that they often allow clients to be reimbursed for fees issued by out-of-network ATMs.
- Get cash back for free at the grocery or drug store when you use your debit card.
- Convince your bank to refund out-of-network ATM fees. According to financial guru and author Ramit Sethi, banks pay hundreds to thousands of dollars to acquire customers and are anxious not to lose you. He suggests calling the bank to have the fee(s) waived, asking what else the representative can do to help you and being cordial while realizing “that ‘no’ is the beginning of the conversation” rather than the end.
- Use your own bank if possible in a foreign country. The fees will likely be less. Also, do research on the best bank for ATM fees before you travel, and change your password to six digits before you leave the United States. Some foreign banks will not accept a four-digit password.
- Carry traveler’s checks when traveling abroad so you don’t need to use ATMS as often.
Related: 6 Tips for Safer Online Banking
The good news is that more banks are disclosing the fees they charge — including ATM fees — in a clearer, easier to read format called “disclosure boxes,” according to a recent Pew report. These are one-page documents about the banks terms and conditions that can be handed out to customers or that head up more lengthy disclosures. In 2013, only 23 percent of the national banks reviewed disclosed service fees this way. That jumped to 54 percent in the 2014 Pew report.