Ways to Avoid ATM Fees

Although there are over 3.5 million ATMs across the globe, finding ways to avoid ATM fees can be quite difficult. If you don’t monitor the fees closely enough, you could send your bank account into the red (which would lead to another set of fees). Avoid overdrawing your account by using a few tips and tricks for getting out of those pesky ATM fees.

What Types of ATM Fees do Banks Charge?

There are three types of fees that banks may charge you for when withdrawing money at an ATM. 

ATM Operator’s Fee

An ATM operator’s fee is when you use an ATM that is not part of your bank’s ATM  network. The ATM is owned and operated by another bank or company. Normally when you go to withdraw money, the machine tells you how much you are going to be charged for using the machine. Just how much you’re charged varies. Normally the fees range from $1.00 to $3.50. However, if it’s a “convenience” machine set up in a tourist destination, you may even be charged as much as $10.  

Non-network Fee

Oftentimes, it’s easy to get charged two fees when withdrawing cash: one from the ATM operator and one from your bank. Banks prefer you to use their ATMs and will charge you money when you go to a competitor’s. Of course, you may be able to get the fee waived depending on what type of account you have with your bank, but for the most part, you’ll likely end up paying anywhere from $2.00 to $3.50. 

On top of that, at the time of the withdrawal, the ATM is unlikely to tell you about any fees your bank is going to charge you. Your bank will have communicated all of its fees to you when you enrolled. If these amounts change at any time, your bank should have sent a notification. However, this information comes from your bank, not a third-party ATM. 

International ATM Fee

While traveling abroad, your bank will charge you a higher withdrawal fee at ATMs. Quite often banks charge a flat fee on top of a percentage of the amount withdrawn. The percentage is justified as a conversion fee for converting your American cash into a new currency. 

How Much do Banks Charge for ATM Fees?

For the fees mentioned above, here are how much some of the most popular banks charge:

Bank ATM Operator’s Fee International ATM Fee Non-Network Fee
BB&T $2.50 $5.00 Flat Fee + 3% Conversion Fee $2.50
Capital One $3.00 $2.00 Flat Fee + 3% Conversion Fee $2.00
Chase $3.00 $5.00 Flat Fee + 3% Conversion Fee $2.50
SunTrust $2.50 $5.00 Flat Fee; No Conversion Fee $3.00
U.S. Bank $2.50 $2.50 Flat Fee + 3% Conversion Fee $2.50
Wells Fargo $3.00 $5.00 Flat Fee + 3% Conversion Fee $2.50

Note: If using your bank’s personal ATM, there is no charge. 

How to Avoid ATM Fees

There are a variety of ways to avoid ATM fees, but most require forethought prior to heading out to the ATM.

Find ATMs That Are a Part of Your Bank’s Network

Your bank or credit union may have partnered with an ATM network to expand its fee-free regions. ATMs that are a part of your bank’s network won’t charge you any fees. 

Common ATM networks include:

  • AllPoint
  • Co-Op Network
  • Star
  • Accel/Exchange
  • Cirrus
  • Plus- Visa
  • MoneyMaker
  • Pulse
  • Shazam
  • Jeanie
  • Presto
  • Star

If you’re not sure whether your bank or credit union has partnered with any of these ATM networks, just call and ask. The largest ATM network is currently Plus (which is offered by Visa), but Cirrus is not far behind. 

If you have a country you routinely travel to, find out which ATM network has the most locations there. Perhaps you’ll want to consider switching banks. Analyze the cost and benefits of keeping your old bank to the cost and benefits of switching. Bank loyalty will only get you so far! 

Install an ATM Locator on Your Smartphone 

Some banks have their own ATM locator apps, but there are a number of apps out there for both iOS and Android that tell you the location of the closest ATM. This can be a real lifesaver when it comes to avoiding ATM fees altogether. We recommend installing apps made by your personal bank or credit union before resorting to third-party developers so that you know the information you receive is 100% right. 

Get Cash Back While Shopping

Instead of using an ATM to get money, take advantage of cashback opportunities when they arise. Smaller stores often charge you fees, but big-box retailers and grocery stores are less likely to do so. Just be sure to use your debit card and not a credit card when swiping. If you select credit when asked, you won’t get the opportunity for cashback. Think ahead so you can avoid going to the ATM later.

Verify That You Need Cash

Cash is becoming increasingly less needed. Most taxis, retailers, and restaurants now accept some form of digital payment (if your local taxis don’t, try Uber or Lyft instead). 

If you know where you’re going beforehand, do a little research to see what types of payment they accept. Perhaps you’ll be able to get by with your debit card or digital wallet (such as Apple Pay or Google Pay) on your smartphone. An easy way to determine what payment an establishment will take is to use apps like Foursquare and Yelp. 

We’re so used to using our debit cards and digital wallets these days that we’re practically blindsided when a company or event only accepts cash. Fairs, festivals, and concerts are the big three that tend to only want cash. 

Before you go to any of these kinds of events, plan and budget so you can visit a no-fee ATM on your way. Any “convenient” ATMs nearby are likely going to charge you a lot of money for the ability to access your money. 

Switch to a Bank That Reimburses You or That Doesn’t Charge Fees

Many banks reimburse ATM fees. Depending on the bank or credit union, you may be refunded an unlimited amount, or there may be a cap each month. Banks and credit unions that refund money usually offer between $10 and $25 a month. If your bank offers this benefit, check to see how you go about getting reimbursed. It may not happen automatically. You may have to request it instead.

Some banks only offer reimbursement through upgraded accounts, such as high-yield accounts. Account holders with these accounts are often required to have a high checking account balance. Should it dip below the minimum amount, you have to pay monthly fees. However, if you’re able to keep the required minimum balance in your checking account, the ATM fee-waiver perk may be enough of a reason to upgrade your standard checking account if you frequently visit ATMs. 

If your bank doesn’t reimburse ATM fees no matter what account you have, it’s probably time to consider a bank that does. Many banks have this as a feature at no additional cost for account holders. 

Find a Better Bank is a great website you can use that helps you compare banks based upon your search criteria. There are a lot of ways to personalize your list, but they have a whole section devoted to ATMs and ATM fees when choosing what features you want your bank to have. After you choose your must-haves, FindaBetterBank.com generates a list of banks that meet your banking needs. 

Withdraw More Cash Than You Need

This isn’t a way to avoid fees altogether, but it is a strategy you may want to consider the next time you go to withdraw cash. 

Instead of withdrawing only what you need when you need it, consider giving yourself a cash withdrawal budget each month. To do this, simply withdraw a large amount of cash at one time so you’re only paying the ATM fee once. If you know you need cash every Friday night, why not prepare in advance for all four Fridays in the month?

Of course, if you’re traveling, you may not want to do this, as your bank will likely charge you a conversion fee and a percentage fee (which should most likely be 3% of whatever amount you withdrawal). 

If you’re in the U.S., however, this strategy can spare you the headache of finding and traveling to an ATM each time you need a little bit of cash. Just make sure you keep the money safe and secure, and that you don’t withdrawal a large of amount of money with people nearby. 

Don’t Accept ATM Fees as a Fact of Life

You don’t have to accept ATM fees as an ongoing expense. There are numerous ways to get the cash you need without being penalized for the convenience of doing so. By using the above tips, you should be well on your way to either lowering what you pay or avoiding fees altogether.