5 Tips for Dodging ATM Fees

ATMs might be an indispensable part of bank consumers’ lives, but that doesn’t mean you should pay more.

ATM fees are on the rise — so every time you pay one, it’s taking a bigger bite out of your personal finances. According to an ABC News report, ATM surcharges have risen by an average of 7% a year since 1999. Back then, the average fee was $1.12. Today, it’s $2.22.

To dodge ATM fees and penalties, make the following five tips part of your normal banking routine.

Don’t have an “out-of-bank” experience. Most likely your bank won’t charge you to take cash out of your own account via an ATM. But that won’t apply to ATMs where you don’t hold an account with the affiliated bank. Some out-of-network ATMs might charge $3 or even $4 to get some quick cash. Imagine getting $25 from an out-of-network ATM and paying a 15% surcharge for the privilege. You wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) take out a loan at a 15% interest rate. So why pay a hefty rate to get your own money from your bank account?

Budget accordingly. If you’re forced to access cash from an out-of-network ATM — say when you’re on vacation or traveling on business — take out more cash, to minimize the fee percentage on your wallet. If you take out $250, and pay a $3 ATM fee, the impact will be much less significant than if you take out $25 with the same $3 fee. Plus, if you manage your money wisely, you’ll avoid the prospect of having to pay for another ATM transaction by taking more money in the first place. If you’re really on the ball, use travelers checks or credit cards, which often come with rewards travel points, and avoid using an ATM altogether.

Stick to Bank ATMs. Even if you need to grab some cash from an out-of-bank ATM, use ATMs located in banks. Usually, when you use a machine in a convenience store or a casino, for example, you’ll likely pay higher ATM transaction fees.

Use a Bank That Reimburses Your ATM Charges. You shouldn’t base any big “new bank” decisions on whether or not they reimbursed you for out-of-network ATM transactions, but it’s a nice perk if you can get it. Some banks offer ATM reimbursement services, but expect to have to maintain a minimum account balance (usually $1,000 or more) to qualify.

Out Shopping? Get Cash Back. Many retailers will allow you to take “cash back” when you use a bank debit card at their registers — for no fee at all. So, technically, you could get fee-free cash for buying a toothbrush at Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT).

Avoiding ATM fees is all about discipline and creativity, but it’s worth the effort. Why let the banks snatch another nickel from you when, with a little diligence, you can avoid it?

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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