Banks are the safest and most convenient places to keep your hard-earned cash, but unfortunately, you might find yourself spending money to store and access the money in your accounts.
One type of bank fee you’re likely to encounter is the insidious ATM fee — and you’re likely to fall prey to them not just from your own bank, but from others whose ATMs you might use! Here’s a closer look at ATM fees and how much they could cost you — as well as how to avoid them.
Wait, how much do ATM fees cost!?
While some bank fees (such as overdraft fees) are on the decline as of late, there is no free lunch when it comes to financial institutions’ desire to nickel and dime all of us. The Biden Administration has made addressing “junk fees” a priority, for the benefit of Americans and our wallets (thank you, Mr. President), and this includes ATM fees.
ATMs are an extremely convenient way to access cash — they’re everywhere, and you don’t even have to make a special trip to your bank during its open hours to use one. However, you’re likely to be charged multiple fees if you use an out-of-network ATM to take cash out.
According to data from Statista, ATM fees have been on a steady rise since 1998; they averaged $0.89 in 1998, and as of 2021, the average ATM fee had reached $3.08. And to add insult to injury, you could be looking at that fee (or one close to it) twice — once from your bank, and also from the bank that owns that ATM.
This sure isn’t ideal, especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and your budget is extremely tight already. Losing that extra bit of cash from your checking account could be a real problem, and ATM fees can add up quickly.
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How can you avoid ATM fees?
It’s been a few years since I paid an ATM fee, and that’s by design. I don’t rely on cash much these days (although I do try to keep some cash on hand, just in case). I take the following steps to skip the fees when I do take cash out. You should, too.
I only use in-network ATMs
One of the two banks I have accounts with is online-only, which means I can’t pop over to a branch location when I need cash. Instead, I must rely on that bank’s fairly robust network of ATMs, and I got lucky that there’s an in-network machine inside a drugstore in my neighborhood.
My other bank, a big brick-and-mortar institution, no longer has any branches in my city (I joined this bank almost 15 years ago because it had branches everywhere — go figure). So if I spot an ATM while I’m out and I need cash, I pounce.
I chose a bank that reimburses ATM fees
My online-only bank (which I joined about 18 months ago) also offers ATM fee reimbursement should I find myself unable to take cash out of one of its ATMs and have to rely on an out-of-network machine. It’ll reimburse me for up to $10 per month, which is just fine with me; since I only take out cash sparingly, it’s unlikely I’d need to be paid back more than that.
I take out larger amounts
Rather than withdrawing $20 from an ATM every few days, I generally opt to take out $100 to $200 at a time. This gives me some walking-around cash as well as some to stash at home for emergencies or paying my downstairs neighbors for their occasional cat-sitting services. If you have to pay ATM fees, you’ll be charged less if you can take out more money one time, rather than a small amount many times.
ATM fees are one of life’s little annoyances, and as they get more expensive, it’s important to find ways to save. Follow these tips and keep more of your own money in the process of getting access to it.
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