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Published November 30, 2022

How to Make Free ATM Withdrawals in Canada

To make free ATM withdrawals in Canada, make sure you stay within your account’s transaction limit and use ATMs within your financial institution’s network.

Using an automated teller machine (ATM) or automated banking machine (ABM) is a convenient way to access cash whenever you need it. But sometimes, these ATM withdrawals can come with fees that take a bite out of your account balance over time. With a little research and planning and the use of locator apps, it’s possible to avoid paying ATM fees altogether.

Here are a few ways most banking customers can make free ATM transactions across Canada.

Use your bank’s ATM

Withdrawing cash from an ATM operated by the financial institution you bank with is the easiest way to benefit from free withdrawals. Many chequing accounts include some — or unlimited — fee-free visits to the bank’s own ATMs each month. Staying within your account’s monthly transaction limit will also ensure you’re not paying extra fees.

Bank ATM fees 

Any fees your bank charges for using an ATM falls into two categories:

Regular account fee: Your monthly chequing account fee usually covers a certain number of debit transactions. If you exceed that number, you’ll usually have to pay a fee per extra transaction.

Out-of-network ATM fees: If you withdraw funds using a different bank’s ATM, your bank will likely charge you a network access fee. 

Additionally, the other bank may also charge you a convenience fee or non-customer surcharge. This fee can be higher for white-label ATMs operated by private companies, generally located in bars, restaurants and stores.

How to find your bank’s ATMs

To find your bank’s ATMs nearby, visit its website or check your banking app. Many bank sites and apps generate a map of nearby ATMs when you share your location or search by address, city or postal code.

In addition to ATMs located within bank branches, these searches will also list the ATM locations your bank owns in other places, such as convenience stores, gas stations or malls.

For example, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) has ATMs in select Pioneer gas stations and Ontario ONroute highway stops, which its customers can use for no additional fees.

Use a credit union ATM

If you’re a credit union member in Canada, you have access to more than 5,000 ATMs owned by several credit unions that allow you to make fee-free cash withdrawals across the country, and in some cases, in the U.S.

The Exchange Network, run by Ficanex Services — a limited partnership company owned by Canadian financial institutions. It includes a group of credit unions and banks, such as HSBC Bank Canada that offers their cardholders free access to one another’s ATMs for cash withdrawals, PIN changes, transfers, deposits and balance inquiries. 

The Exchange Network has more than 3,000 ATMs across Canada, primarily in the Atlantic region, Ontario and British Columbia.

Similarly, the Acculink Network, operated by the Canadian Credit Union Association (CCUA), connects 400 credit unions and provides members with fee-free access to 1,800 ATMs across Canada. Large Quebec-based caisse populaire, Desjardins is one such partner that provides its members to use the fee-free network for cash withdrawals, deposits, transfers and more.

Some credit unions and financial institutions are members of both The Exchange Network and Acculink. So before using an ATM, check the featured network logo(s) on your credit union debit card to ensure your transaction is fee-free.

How to find a credit union ATM

There are a few ways to find an ATM that provides fee-free access to credit union and bank members via Acculink or The Exchange Network.

Search online

Visit the network’s website (The Exchange Network or Acculink, via the CCUA) to find a map of nearby ATMs based on your street address, city or postal code.

Download an app

You can download The Exchange Network’s locator app and can look for nearby ATM locations on your Apple or Android device.

Credit union members can also use the Ding-Free (ATM locator app) to locate the closest fee-free machine within the credit union sector’s network in Canada. 

Look for the ATM sticker

ATMs providing members with fee-free access also feature The Exchange or Acculink logo stickers.

Use an ATM network

If your financial institution is part of a broader ATM network, you’ll have another way to gain surcharge-free access to an ATM. In some cases, these networks may also provide free withdrawals at international locations.

Global ATM Alliance

Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank) is a member of the Global ATM Alliance. This network provides customers surcharge-free access to 44,000 international ABMs in over 40 countries, including Bank of America in the U.S., Deutsche Bank in Germany and Westpac in New Zealand.

Allpoint

Cardholders in Canada’s Exchange Network of credit unions and banks also have surcharge-free access to 40,000 U.S. ATMs via the Allpoint network, which are found in retail locations. 

The Exchange Network cardholders can also withdraw cash for a certain fee at some Accel Network ATM locations in the U.S.

How to find a network ATM

If you’re a cardholder with a financial institution that provides you free access to other ATMs via a network, finding those ATMs is as simple as downloading your bank’s app. For example, the ATM locator in ScotiaBank’s mobile banking app can help you find the nearest partner ABM.

Debit and credit card networks that charge fees

Your credit or debit card may be part of a network that’s useful for unplanned account access at an extra cost, within Canada or when you travel. Here are some options you might want to know about.

Cirrus is a global ATM network owned by Mastercard that provides customers access to their deposit accounts at millions of ATM locations worldwide. Maestro, also a Mastercard brand, allows cardholders to make PIN-based debit purchases and get cash at ATMs worldwide in local currency. 

To find out if you have access to these networks, check the back of your credit or debit card for the Cirrus or Maestro symbol. Note, your bank or the ATM operator may charge fees for foreign currency transactions.

Similarly, many Visa credit and debit cards have a Plus symbol on the back. This worldwide ATM network allows cardholders to access their Canadian bank accounts and make purchases globally. However, transaction fees may apply when you’re using another provider’s ATM internationally.
The Interac network has nearly 60,000 ATMs in Canada. While your bank may provide free access to ATMs that are part of this network, be aware that the ATM provider may charge a convenience fee.

How to find your credit card’s network ATM

Many credit cards allow customers to withdraw cash at an ATM, called a cash advance, for a fee. To find an ATM associated with the credit card network, Mastercard cardholders can search its ATMs worldwide via its ATM locator website and Visa cardholders can search the Global ATM locator on its website.

Alternatives to using an ATM

Get cash back at a grocery store 

Let’s say you’re not near an ATM or nearby machines owned by your financial institution or ATM network. An alternative way to get fee-free cash is through the cash-back option provided at some grocery stores, superstores or drugstore checkouts. 

When you make a debit purchase, these retailers allow you to select an amount to receive in cash that can be added to your purchase total. This cash-back service is usually free, although it’s a good idea to verify that before going ahead with the transaction.

Using credit cards or debit cards

Using your debit card to pay for purchases is another free alternative to visiting an ATM to withdraw cash — as long as you have enough debit transactions included in your banking package to avoid an extra fee. Alternatively, you could use your credit card and make sure you pay off the balance in full each month to avoid paying interest on the transaction.

Frequently asked questions about using the ATM

Can I withdraw cash from an ATM that’s not my bank?

Yes, you can withdraw cash from an ATM that belongs to another financial institution or a private company, also known as a white-label ATM. However, be aware that you may be charged transaction fees — by this ATM provider and potentially also by your bank.

Can I deposit cash at any ATM?

No. While you can withdraw money from any ATM with your debit card, you can deposit cash into your accounts only at ATMs operated by your own financial institution or via select machines owned by banks or credit unions in their partner networks.

About the Author

Helen Burnett-Nichols

Helen Burnett-Nichols is a freelance writer specializing in news and feature articles on a variety of business, legal and investment topics. Her work has appeared in publications such as The Globe and Mail, National Post Legal Post, Canadian Lawyer magazine, Benefits Canada and Golden Girl Finance. Follow her on Twitter @helenbnichols or visit her website, burnettnichols.com.

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