There’s six simple tricks that will let you avoid ATM withdrawal fees, but here’s the most important one: move your money out of a bank and into a local credit union. Because they share ATMs with other credit unions, they actually have a larger network of ATM machines than you’ll get through most banks. And because credit unions are a not-for-profit institution, they eliminate fees for using their ATM machines – and will often even reimburse you for the cost of using a machine that’s out of their network! Unlike banks, they earn most of their money by loaning your cash to small businesses, so they try hard to keep fees lows for those who are depositing money.
Even if you stick with your own bank, usually there’s no fee as long as you withdraw your money from an ATM that’s associated with the bank that created your account. So the trick is to do some research on the locations of all that bank’s ATM machines. Then when you need to withdraw some cash, you’ll know where to go for a no-fee ATM! (It’s easier than you think. Just go to Google Maps and type in the name of your bank, then the word “near” and then your city and state…)
Unfortunately, here’s the biggest reason that people incur ATM fees. They suddenly run out of cash, and it’s in a rushed situation where they don’t have time to hunt around for a particular kind of bank. There’s an easy solution for these situations, too: carry around an extra stash of “emergencies only” cash. I’ve folded up three $20-dollar bills, and tucked them behind my driver’s license. It’s almost like having my own personal “emergency ATM machine” – with no fees!
Of course, you can take that to an extreme, and simply start carrying around lots of extra cash. (Obviously, that means fewer trips to any ATM machine, which will inevitably mean fewer fees!) The only real argument against this is it’s more money to lose if your wallet or purse gets lost or stolen. But if ATM fees are already gobbling up your money, you might try gradually increasing the amounts of money that you withdraw, to see if it helps!
There’s an even safer way to accomplish the same thing: use your debit card more often! If you start making more purchases to your plastic cards, you’ll use less of the cash in your wallet! This also means fewer trips to the ATM machine, and fewer ATM machines. You can accomplish the same thing by using your credit card along with your debit card. And some banks will even offer you a rewards program where they’ll kick back some “bonus points” every time you use your credit card instead of cash! (Just make sure your bank isn’t going to try to charge you even more fees for using your debit card!)
There’s one more drastic but effective way to reduce your ATM fees: change banks! You can switch to a bank which has more ATM machines near where you work or live, making it much easier to make withdrawals without incurring a fee. If you shop around, you may also find a bank that’s charging a much lower ATM fee. Then even if you do incur a fee, you’ll still be saving money!