There’s something to be said for convenience, but it isn’t always cheap. Think twice about how often you run to the ATM.
There can be ATM fees that your bank assesses for using your own bank’s ATM, or using someone else’s ATM. There can be "foreign" ATM fees charged by the actual ATM machine you are using.
"Many consumers pay twice to use the ATM only once – the surcharges imposed by ATM owners and the fee your own bank charges for a ‘foreign’ transaction. Combined you could pay $4-$4.75 in some markets to use an ATM only once," says Ed Mierzwinski, federal Consumer Program Director for U.S. PIRG.
How fast can you say cha-ching? "ATM fees add up surprisingly fast," says Bijan Golkar, vice president and senior advisor at FPC Investment Advisory. "Convenience/surcharge fees, designed to take care of the actual ATM machine and pay for the servicing/maintenance start at around $2, foreign fees, which could also include currency conversions, can range from $1-$5, and you may even get charged just for checking your balance. This fee varies, but can run $1-$3."
A tiny number of banks may even charge a monthly fee, typically $1, simply to have a card and fancier, "rewards debit" cards may have higher monthly fees, says Mierzwinski.
In Bankrate.com’s 2013 Checking Survey, ATM fees hit an all-time high. According to the survey, banks charge noncustomers an average of $2.60 to use their ATMs, up from $2.50 in 2012. The average fee your own bank will charge you for going out of network was down a few percentage points from 2012, to $1.53, but combined you would pay more than $4 to make a withdrawal at an out-of-network ATM.
According to the survey, the fee that banks charge noncustomers to use their ATMs has risen by nearly a third since 2008.
"The good news is, there are some simple ways to limit ATM fees," says Golkar.
There’s no excuse for each week running to an ATM that’s not owned by your bank or part of its network. Get organized and if you’re budgeting properly you shouldn’t have to make "emergency" stops at ATMs.
Many smaller banks and credit unions are forming "surcharge-free networks" that do not impose fees on other members. Some banks and credit unions also offer accounts that reimburse you for some or all of your monthly ATM fees, says Edgar Dworsky of ConsumerWorld.org. Others offer several free "foreign" transactions each month.
You can also avoid ATM fees by using Internet banks like Ally.com and some reward checking accounts like kasasa.com, which offers nationwide ATM fee refunds so you can use any ATM across the country and get reimbursed as part of your rewards.
One simple way to get access to cash and avoid ATM fees is to do a debit and get cash back, say like when you’re at the grocery store. Outsmart the foxes.
It also pays to think big picture. "Realize that most financial institutions, and particularly those with a high-touch service model, are looking for a ‘total relationship’," explains Charlie Crawford, president, CEO and chairman of the Private Bank of Buckhead.
Translation: the more business you do with the bank can pay off.
‘If a banker can work with a client on that total relationship, you’re more likely to get tailored service and enjoy perks like free ATM usage," says Crawford.
For example, many of his bank’s clients enjoy free checking, either as a courtesy because they have negotiated a total banking relationship with the institution, or because they have committed to using direct deposit.
"Ask your banker what fees he or she may already waive, how and why. For instance, we offer a no-fee ATM card to all of our clients. We do not charge ATM fees of our own and we refund the ATM fees clients may incur at other ATMs when accessing their accounts," says Crawford.
The bottom line – with a little effort you can make ATM fees someone else’s problem.