How to Avoid ATM Fees

You have options for avoiding ATM fees, including getting cash back at a retailer or an account with fee rebates.
Spencer Tierney
By Spencer Tierney 
Edited by Sara Clarke

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Despite the increase in electronic payment options, cash still has a place in present-day finances, and the most convenient option available might be an ATM that charges you fees.

But the fees are not inevitable. Here are four ways to avoid them.

1. See if cards or digital wallets are accepted

If you are going to a restaurant, merchant or government office, call ahead or check its website to see what forms of payment the business accepts. For events such as county fairs or concerts, you generally can find out ahead of time whether credit cards or digital wallets such as Apple Pay and Android Pay are accepted, in which case you can avoid using cash altogether.

If you’re trying to send money to a friend or family member, you can consider using a peer-to-peer payment app such as Venmo or Cash App to avoid cash as well.

2. Find an ATM in your bank's network

When cash is the only option, use your phone to see how close you are to an ATM in your bank's network. Most banks and credit unions offer a free ATM network, whether it’s their own brand or a shared network such as Allpoint, MoneyPass or Co-op. You can generally find the in-network ATM closest to you by using an ATM locator on your financial institution’s mobile app or through a web search.

3. Get cash back at a store checkout counter

If you aren’t near one of your bank’s ATMs, look for a grocery store, gas station or big retailer. Many of these offer no-fee cash back as a part of your purchase when you use a debit card or prepaid debit card at checkout. When you're asked "debit or credit," select "debit" to get cash back. You'll also need to enter your four-digit personal identification number (PIN). This cash-back option generally is not available with credit cards.

4. Choose a bank or credit union that reimburses ATM fees or has a larger network

If your ATM fees combined with other fees your bank charges are hurting your wallet, it might be time to consider a new bank. Some online banks and community financial institutions refund ATM fees — either an unlimited amount or up to a total of $10 to $25 per month. Try out this checking account comparison tool and filter by out-of-network ATM fees to see which banks offer such refunds.

Alternatively, you may need a bank or credit union with more ATMs, especially in your area. If you travel frequently, consider banks that don’t have foreign ATM or debit card transaction fees.

"Paying ATM fees is an avoidable waste of money," says Carrie Houchins-Witt, certified financial planner and owner of a financial services firm at Carrie Houchins-Witt Tax & Financial Services in Coralville, Iowa. "Better to keep your hard-earned money than give it to the bank."

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