How to Avoid ATM Fees

Tired of being stuck with ATM fees when you need cash? Here are a few ways to avoid them

Automatic teller machines can be incredibly convenient devices, especially when you’re stuck without much-needed cash — but paying up to $5 in ATM fees to access your own money can be a real pain in the rear. It behooves you, then, to find ways to avoid sticking yourself with such fees.

We took a look at this situation several years back in our article about avoiding ATM fees, but it’s worth checking out again, especially since ATM bank fees are much higher than they used to be. A few new workarounds have presented themselves in the interim, too.

The Evolution of Cash

As we outlined previously, the easiest way to avoid fees is careful planning. If you withdraw cash from your own bank’s machines, you probably won’t be charged at all; otherwise, limiting your cash withdrawals from “foreign” ATMs to once or twice a week will limit those bank fees.

But thanks to the continued evolution of the electronic economy, there are simpler ways to save money on withdrawal fees. They mostly boil down to those plastic cards in your wallet or purse, especially the debit cards that banks hand out routinely whenever you open an account.

First of all, you barely need cash anymore. What with direct deposit and electronic payments, there’s very little call for it. These days, most people use cash only in small amounts for tips and incidental purchases. Everything else goes on credit or debit cards, which are accepted almost everywhere.

While there’s some danger of identity theft when using plastic, of course, that’s fairly easy to guard against if you stay alert.

A Little Bit Extra

The convenience of either consolidating all your payments in one place, or having them withdrawn instantly from your bank, makes the use of credit and debit cards extremely popular, and retailers have responded wholeheartedly.

Although there are exceptions, most will allow you to put even small purchases on your debit cards. Another great thing about using them is that most places offer a cash back option. If you need dollars, you can usually buy something small and then opt to get some additional money when you check out.

Usually, the limit is $20-40, but some places will let you get up to $50 in cash back.

And One More Thing

It may seem like an old-fashioned idea these days, but you might want to carry a checkbook for those times when you don’t want to use your cash, or you’ve run out. At the very least, carry a blank (unsigned) check in your wallet.

Out-of-town merchants may not accept them, but they’re great for when you’re running around town and don’t want to pay high ATM fees just to get a few bucks.