Spring starts next month and it is a perfect time to look at areas of your financial life that could use a little dusting. One bank statement-cluttering culprit that can be easily swept away? Excessive ATM fees.
Many people consider ATM fees a small inconvenience. Actually, they can be a huge drain: people spent some $4.4 billion on ATM fees in 2007, according to a study by Bankrate.com, using numbers provided by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. That's a lot of dough!
A big chunk of the money collected comes from convenience fees, or surcharges, put in place when someone uses an ATM that is not within their bank’s network. Some banks and ATM owners also charge a transaction fee when one of their members uses a non-network ATM. These transaction fees generally run between $1 to $1.50, while surcharges are generally between $1.50 and $2.50. “The charges are in place to support the networks,” says Steve Kenneally, vice president of the American Bankers’ Association. "It is expensive to maintain ATM machines.”Maybe so, but let someone else pay for the machine's maintenance by following these relatively simple ways to avoid, or at the very least minimize, racking up ATM fees. Christine Holevas, a spokesperson for Chase Bank (CCF) says that frequent ATM users should ensure that their branch has an extensive network of ATM locations. Also, if someone needs to use an ATM that is not within their bank’s network, make a large withdrawal. “If you withdraw more money once rather than take out smaller amounts more than once, you will save money by only paying one surcharge fee,” says Holevas.
Another way to get around paying fees is to ask for cash back when using a MasterCard (MA) or Visa check card at a store. Or, shoppers can write a check for more than the price of what they are purchasing and get the difference back in cash.