It happens to all of us. You stop at the sandwich shop for a quick bite and learn it’s cash only. Or you’re on vacation and you realize you’ll need some actual dollar bills to get that ice cream sandwich that your child is clamoring for from the beach vendor.
So, you rush to the closest automatic teller machine, press withdrawal, pull out some money and, often, pay a few dollars in fees for the privilege.
If the ATM you visit isn’t directly associated with your bank or network, you will likely incur fees to use it. ATM fees come in several forms. You will likely pay the operator of the actual ATM where you’re withdrawing the money. That might set you back $1 to $5 or so.
Then, you might shell out a few more dollars to your own financial institution if the ATM you pull money from is not part of your own bank or credit union’s network. Unlike the ATM operator’s fee, you may not learn about these charges until you get your bank statement or check your account online.
And, finally, if you’re lucky enough to travel internationally, you’ll have to pay another $2 to $5 to withdraw money at a foreign ATM.
In other words, unplanned ATM withdrawals can really be a drain on your wallet. And those fees are going up. According to a 2017 Bankrate survey, ATM fees have climbed 55 percent in the past decade.
Make a plan
Just like any financial decision, ATM withdrawals aren’t something to do on the fly -- especially if you’re trying to stay on budget. It’s so easy to lose track of the $20 you withdraw here and the $30 you pull out there. After a month of withdrawals, those seemingly small amounts can easily add up to a significant amount.
So, instead of randomly visiting the ATM, make a plan. Schedule a specific day when you’ll withdrawal the cash you’ll need for the coming week. When you’re headed out on the town, call ahead to find out if it’s a cash-only joint.
Know your network
Unless it’s an emergency, you should only rely on ATMs in your bank or credit union’s network, so you can avoid fees. Get familiar with your financial institution’s network of ATMs in your neighborhood, near your workplace and close to other places that you frequent where you can pull out money at no cost to you. Your bank or credit union’s website will list locations.
Consider moving your money to a credit union
A major bank might seem like an obvious place to stick your money because it seems like it might have more branches -- and more ATMS -- for you to visit. In fact, credit unions also have a broad network of ATMs where users can save money on fees.
Participating credit union members of CO-OP Credit Union actually have access to more than 30,000 ATMs across the country that won’t require them to pay any fees. By contrast, Chase has just 18,000 ATMs, Bank of America has only 16,000 and Wells Fargo has just 12,200, according to NerdWallet.com.
Consider a bank that reimburses fees
It’s true. Some banks will pay you back for fees that other institutions charge to use their ATMs. There are, of course, rules, restrictions and lots of fine print. A bank may limit those reimbursements to a fixed amount each statement period or require that you hold a specific kind of account with the bank. Investopedia lists some of the options.
Getting cash back at the store
Using your debit card to get cash back as you complete a transaction at the grocery store, for instance, often comes at no charge. It’s essentially a free way to pull money from your bank account, though stores often limit the total amount to no more than $50-$100. But, be careful: Some stores do charge a cash back fee. Before you ask for cash back, ask what the store’s policy is.
You work hard for your money, why waste it on ATM fees? Careful planning and withdrawals at the ATM will ensure you’re not paying banks to spend it.
The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt. For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. empowers people to overcome their financial challenges and lead financially-healthy lives.
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