ATMs are an essential part of our financial system today. Even as the world moves toward a cashless society, we’re not there yet, so we still need ATMs to withdraw money to pay for cash-only purchases. And in many cases, withdrawing cash from an ATM isn’t free.
If you’ve ever withdrawn cash or even checked your balance on an ATM outside your bank’s network, chances are the ATM operator or your bank has charged you an ATM fee. Although these fees depend on the operator, the network, or the bank, they usually range from $2.50 to $5 and can add up if you’re not careful.
The good news is that you can save a lot of money on ATM fees if you know how to avoid paying them.
Why do we need ATMs?
Though there’s no shortage of non-cash payment options these days, including debit and credit cards, P2P payment services, and now Bitcoin, we’re a long way from a cash-free society. Until we reach that point, you’ll need to be prepared for those moments when cash is required (I’m looking at you, food trucks).
On the other hand, ATMs also allow us to check our balances, transfer money and even make cash or check deposits. These services can be life savers if you don’t have access to an internet connection for whatever reason.
However, operating and maintaining ATMs implies costs for the bank or the ATM network, and someone has to cover those costs. In some cases, it will be the bank, while in others, it’ll be you. Knowing how to avoid ATM fees will help you keep more cash and never pay a bank fee or surcharge again.
Tips to avoid paying ATM fees
Read on for six tips on finding fee-free ATMs near you, or avoiding paying ATM fees every time you need cash.
Stick to no-fee ATMs within your bank’s network
The first way to avoid paying ATM fees is to look for a machine that doesn’t charge one. But, the question is, how do you know what ATMs don’t charge ATM fees?
The answer is simple: start by looking for an ATM your bank owns or is part of its network. In most cases, these machines will not charge you anything, regardless of your transaction. That said, you should be aware that some banks only allow a certain number of free transactions or operations.
However, this brings up an obvious question: how do you know which ATMs belong to your bank, and where can you find them? Fortunately, many tools can help you find those ATMs near you.
Most mobile banking apps today come with an ATM locator feature that will detect your location and show you where the bank’s nearest ATM is. Using your bank’s ATM locator will help you avoid paying ATM fees even if you’re in an unfamiliar area.
If your bank doesn’t have an ATM locator, you can use online maps like Google Maps or Apple Maps to look for your bank’s nearest ATM. It’s as simple as opening the app and quickly searching for key phrases like “no fee ATM near me.” It also helps to add your bank’s names as part of the phrase.
Get reimbursements from your bank
No bank has ATMs everywhere, so, sometimes, you’ll have no choice but to use whatever machine is available. To help their customers when they’re in this tricky situation, some banks will reimburse ATM fees from other banks or non-partner networks up to a limited amount. This way, you can use any ATM in case of emergency for free.
To make this work, your bank monitors your monthly transactions and will detect any ATM fee that shows up on your balance. Then, they will add up all the fees and reimburse you (within a set limit). Usually, the reimbursement will appear on your account next billing period. Only some banks offer this benefit, though, so it’s worth contacting yours to see if they do.
This set-up works well when you only use external ATMs occasionally. However, if you expect to use different ATMs regularly, there’s still a way you can do so without paying ATM fees.
Get an account with an online-only bank
Online-only banks are banks that have no physical branches and that you can only access through the internet. These banks save a ton of money on costs, allowing them to offer lower interest rates and lower fees in general.
These banks don’t usually own any ATMs. Therefore, to provide fee-free ATM services to customers, many online-only banks reimburse all ATM fees, no questions asked, and with no limits. Some only-online financial institutions partner with retailers and other locations to offer fee-free ATM services. Chime’s ATM network includes 60,000+ fee-free ATMs at stores like 7-Eleven, CVS, Walgreens, Circle K, and more.
Get cashback from retail stores
A clever way to avoid ATM fees is by forgoing the ATM entirely. If there are no fee-free ATMs nearby, but there’s a grocery or a pharmacy, you can purchase something with your debit card and ask for a cashback.
Most stores allow $20 to $50 cashback, but some offer up to $100. The store will charge your debit card for the cashback and the item you’ve purchased without charging extra fees.
The only downside is that you must buy something from the store to ask for cashback, but if it’s something you need, all the better.
Use your debit card for group expenses in exchange for cash
We’ve all been in this situation: you’re out for a meal with a group of friends, the check comes, and you either have to split the bill between a stack of cards or some people have to pay cash. This is a great opportunity for you to help simplify the group payment process and get some cash. Offer to put the full bill on your card and pocket the cash your friends contributed. Avoid ATM fees and be the most popular friend at the table!
If some of your friends don’t have cash, they can use Pay Anyone to send you their share.
Avoid ATMs and start going cashless
Though the world is far from going cashless, you can avoid using ATMs by avoiding using cash when possible. Besides avoiding ATM fees, this also brings other benefits. For example, by paying with debit cards, credit cards, or digital wallets, you’ll have a complete record of all your transactions, which you can use to improve your spending habits. Not to mention the convenience of not carrying cash with you all the time.
You can also use these payment channels to earn loyalty points and rewards, avoiding fees and earning extra money.
Why spend your money on ATM fees when you can use other options that can potentially bring you more benefits?
Can you use any ATM?
Yes, you can use any ATM, even the ones not owned by your bank, to withdraw money and check your balance. However, the ATM operator or bank that owns the ATM may charge you an ATM fee.
How much are ATM fees?
ATM fees typically range from $2.50 to $5 per transaction. The specific amount depends on the ATM operator or bank that owns the ATM, what bank you’re using, and what type of transaction you did.
What is a no-fee ATM?
As its name suggests, a no-fee ATM is an ATM that doesn’t charge a service fee whenever you use it to withdraw cash, check your balance, or make another transaction.
Which ATMs charge no ATM fees?
If you want to use an ATM without paying ATM fees, use an ATM that your bank owns. Your bank may also offer reimbursements to cover some ATM fees outside their network.
Also, if you’re using an online-only bank, you can generally use a wide variety of ATMs and your bank will reimburse the fees.
How can I find a no-fee ATM?
To find an ATM that charges no fee, you can use your bank’s ATM locator using their app. If your bank doesn’t have an ATM locator, you can use online maps to look for an ATM that your bank owns.
Can I get reimbursed for an ATM fee?
It depends on your bank. Some banks offer limited ATM fee reimbursement, while online-only banks usually offer unlimited ATM fee reimbursement.
Are there other ways of withdrawing cash aside from ATMs?
Yes, there are. You can ask for cashback in a retail store if you’re paying with your debit card.
How much can you ask for cashback?
Stores usually allow $20 to $50 cashback, but some allow up to $100.
Let's put ATM fees to rest
Using ATMs regularly and not paying attention to what ATM you use can cost you a lot of money in ATM fees. If you use an ATM several times a week and pay a fee each time, it can cost you anywhere from $400 to $800 per year – enough to buy a new phone!
Thankfully, by following the tips discussed in this article, you can stop paying ATM fees and save yourself that money. You only need to find a no-fee ATM near you, get reimbursed by your bank whenever possible, get cashback from stores, or even go cashless.
There are many ways to optimize your finances, and avoiding ATM fees is one of them. If you want to start saving money on fees today, apply for a Chime Checking Account in 2 minutes for access to our network of 60,000+ fee-free ATMs.