5 Tips for Avoiding ATM Fees

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

You shouldn’t have to pay to withdraw your own money. But, as ATM fees continue to rise, you’re forced to spend more of your hard-earned cash just trying to access your own money. According to U.S. News, three of the nation’s largest banks — Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Citibank (NYSE:C), and SunTrust Bank (NYSE:STI) – have all recently increased their out-of-network ATM fee from $2 to $2.50. “At the top-10 U.S. banks, the average out-of-network ATM fee is $2.45, up from $2.25 in November. Then, don’t forget that the ATM operator also has the right to slap on a surcharge, usually around $3 to $5.” But, there are several easy ways to avoid paying fees all together. Are you sick of of spending money on withdrawals? Try a few of these tips.

1. Take advantage of the cash back option

Many retailers will give cardholders the chance to withdraw additional money with PIN debit purchases, which typically don’t incur fees, per Debit Savvy. When you’re paying for an item, just look at the terminal where you’re swiping your card. Sometimes it will automatically ask you if you’d like to use the cash back feature and withdraw money. But, if you don’t see anything like that, just ask your cashier. Several stores offer a free cash back service when you pay with your ATM card, including Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS), Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD), Walgreens (NYSE:WAG), Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM), and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), writes CBS News. There’s typically a limit to how much you can withdraw (the average is anywhere from $20 to $60), so keep that in mind if you’re hoping to withdraw a lot.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

2. Choose a bank that waives ATM fees

This is a big deal. There are banks out there that won’t charge you for using an out-of-network ATM. So, if you’re incurring a lot of withdrawal fees from your bank each month, it might be time to switch to a different bank. “For example, PNC Bank offers a free checking account that will reimburse all non-PNC ATM fees. The only stipulation is that you must maintain a monthly minimum balance of $2,000 in your checking account. Some online banks also offer ATM reimbursement, but they often have a low maximum reimbursement amount,” according to Banking My Way. Online banks will often offer this feature since they don’t have a brick-and-mortar location. Check out Ally, an online-only bank. Each month you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the money that’s deposited into your account, which will cover the withdrawal fees you’ve accumulated for the month.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

3. Utilize your smartphone

When you’re in a rush and need some cash, it becomes really easy to run to the closest ATM to withdraw money, but try to avoid it. Thanks to technology, banks have made it a lot easier for consumers to locate in-network ATMs. Take a minute to search for nearby ATMs using your smartphone, per U.S. News. Many of the mobile banking apps now even have a nifty feature, which lists ATMs for you based on your GPS location. You never know, you could have an in-network ATM that’s a lot closer than you thought.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

4. Take out more cash, rather than less

One of the easiest ways to avoid ATM fees is to take out plenty when you are at an in-network ATM, according to How Stuff Works. “The surcharge you pay on an ATM withdrawal is a flat fee, not a percentage of the cash you withdraw. So the $3.00 fee you pay to take out $20 in cash is still only $3.00 when you take out $100. However, if you take out the $100 in five $20 withdrawals, the total fee will soar to $15.” That’s 15 percent of your money, which is way too much to spend on bank fees. Withdrawing small amounts doesn’t make sense when you know you’ll just be trying withdraw more money in a few days.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

5. Look into affiliated ATM networks

Financial institutions (usually banks and credit unions) will sometimes partner with other financial companies. It does this so that it can offer customers an expanded ATM network and not have to impose surcharges. U.S. News writes that some smaller and online banks work with the Allpoint or STAR ATM networks to provide more surcharge-free access to ATMs. There are also credit unions that will partner with the CO-OP ATM network, which doesn’t impose surcharges for members of partnered credit unions. Make sure you know (or find out if you don’t know) if your bank happens to have any partnerships like this. It could provide you even more ATM options. Or, if you’re really getting sick of the fees, leave your current bank and find one that offers more flexibility.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet: