Avoid ATM Fees with These Helpful Hints

by Ryan Yates

A lot of folks find out the hard way how expensive ATM fees can turn out to be, when using out-of-network machines. The $2 fee doesn’t feel so big at first until things start to add up in your monthly banking statements.

Why Pay ATM Fees?

In some cases, these ATM fees can be as high as $5 per transaction. You just have to read the fine print, because in most cases, after being hit with the $2-3 ATM fee, you are charged an additional few bucks. It says it right there in the bank’s policy. So if you’re shelling out $5 per ATM transaction, you could easily be spending as much as $260 annually in transaction costs!

A Lot of Banks Eliminate These Fees

Yes, there are plenty of bigger banks out there who are still charging ATM fees, but there are also a lot of them that are doing away with them altogether. Some of these institutions include State Farm Bank, Charles Schwab, Ally, and USAA, who not only allow its members to use out-of-network ATMs free of charge, but will even refund them when they are charged by other banks.

You can also find numerous banks that will refund some of the ATM fees its customers are being charged. Instead of waiving the fees infinitely, they have a preset limit set for reimbursements. One bank in particular is Clear Sky, which is known for waiving up to $20 monthly for ATM fees. Then there is Internet USA, who will refund up to $8. At Century Bank, you’re able to use non-network ATMs six times each month before being charged.

There are some financial institutions that will waive such fees if the balance in your account is big enough. At EverBank, they allow customers unlimited usage of non-network ATMs as long as they keep a minimum of $5,000 in their accounts. PNC does this too, as long as you have a daily balance of at least $2,000.

Consider Dealing with Small Banks

When using credit unions and small banks, you could end up saving lots of money annually, since they won’t charge you for using non-network ATMs. Since these institutions don’t have many ATMs in the first place, this allows them to bring in more customers. It is the larger banks that are known for non-network ATM fees because they have plenty of ATMs around the nation or state. Then these larger banks are also guilty for trying to get you to sign up for overdraft protection, which you should definitely keep away from.

To Avoid All of This, Plan Ahead

In order to avoid fees altogether, the best thing to do is to plan ahead. ATMs are very convenient, but if you know you will be needing a certain amount of cash, why not stop by your bank or credit union where you won’t have to endure fees at all? You can also use in-network ATMs, whose locations can be found on most bank web sites. You can also call the number on the back of your debit card in order to find one that is near you, while you’re out in town. A lot of banks have apps on Smartphones that allow you to locate their ATMs using GPS.

If you’re looking around for a bank or credit union to sign up with, you should keep an eye on its ATM fees. Those who decide to go with a larger bank don’t have to worry as much, since there are plenty of in-network ATMs around. Just make sure that there are enough around where you live and work. On the other hand, if you’re looking to go with an internet bank, credit union or regional bank, that has fewer ATMs, it is more ideal to look at their policies for ATM fees. Your best bet is to go with a bank that won’t hold you accountable for them.

This post comes from the NerdWallet.com team of personal finance bloggers and experts in helping consumers find the best rewards credit cards.

{ 6 comments }

Jenn @ Paying Myself February 7, 2011 at

Just a note regarding credit unions – not all of them don’t have ATMs or don’t charge fees. At least in Canada, many CUs (including mine) are part of The Exchange Network, which lets you use the ATMs of participating CUs without a fee. If you use an ATM outside of that network, you may be charged depending on your package.

Jeffrey Kosola February 7, 2011 at

Hi Jenn,

Thanks for the tip, I only live 20 minutes from Canada but usually don’t make over too often.

Jenna February 7, 2011 at

I’d love to hear about people’s experiences moving from a larger bank to a credit union. I’m thinking about taking that plunge and was wondering what other people thought of the process.

Jeffrey Kosola February 7, 2011 at

Hi Jenna,

I’ve never been part of a credit union their and wonder the same thing. Maybe someone will answers this for us. I currently you ING and have loved them/it for the past two and a half years!!!

krantcents February 7, 2011 at

I agree! I hate paying any kind of fee, so I won’t. If I can I will negotiate myself out of it or just avoid it. I used my ATM card in Europe. I found out what banks I could use in the UK and avoided a fee. A little planning goes along way.

Jeffrey Kosola February 7, 2011 at

@Krantcents,

Super, planning is key. I did the same went I lived in China and avoided a ton of ATM fees. Thanks for the input.

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