Automated teller machines can come in handy when you're in a hurry and strapped for cash. However, such a convenience will be expensive if you regularly use an ATM that isn't within your bank's ATM network because the bank and the ATM operator has the right to impose fees. But, fortunately, there are ways to avoid them.
At the 10 largest U.S. banks, the average out-of-network ATM fee is $2.05. Additionally, ATM operators slap on fees of about $2 to $3.
Someone who uses an out-of-network ATM five times per month is looking at a monthly expense around $20 to $25, or $240 to $300 per year.
Here are some of the ways that the ATM fees can be minimized or eliminated:
1. Get debit card cash back.
At certain types of stores, mainly supermarkets and gas stations, you can use your debit card to make a small purchase and ask for cash back. The cash back amount is added as part of the sale and the cashier hands you the cash.
Buying something small, such as a candy bar, is cheaper than paying the ATM fee. Plus, you would have paid for a tangible good instead of a service.
2. Use your bank's mobile ATM locator tool.
When you're already out and in need of cash, you may want to pull out your smartphone and use your bank's mobile application to find a nearby ATM. For all you know, it may be just around the corner.
And, if you already know that you might need cash, you can go online to look up ATM locations around where you'll be going.
3. Don't forget partnered ATM networks.
Many financial institutions are partnered with other institutions and ATM networks to provide expanded access to ATMs without surcharges. For instance, some credit unions are partnered with the CO-OP ATM network, which allows surcharge-free access to the ATMs of all the partnered credit unions.
Many smaller banks and online banks have similar partnerships with ATM networks, such as Allpoint and STAR, to offer greater access to surcharge-free ATMs.
4. Find no-ATM-fee checking accounts.
There are checking accounts that will waive or reimburse certain ATM fees. More often than not, however, they're not offered from major brick-and-mortar banks. You're more likely to find checking with no ATM fees at online banks.
Ally Bank, Bank of Internet and Schwab Bank are examples of popular banks that offer free checking accounts in addition to unlimited ATM fee rebates.