5 tips to help avoid ATM fees

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You might think spending a dollar or two at the ATM to get cash isn’t much — but those dollars can add up quickly if you regularly stop by an ATM that charges a fee. And on top of the fee the ATM charges, your bank or credit union may charge you an additional fee for using that ATM. If you visit an ATM just once a week — maybe to pick up some extra cash to go out with friends over the weekend — and spend a modest $2 on fees for each withdrawal, that adds up to $104 a year.

Admittedly, that’s probably not enough to make or break your financial plans, but wouldn’t you rather spend $100 on something other than banking fees? Fortunately, there are ways to dodge these extra fees with a bit of planning. Here are our top 5 tips for avoiding pesky ATM fees.

1. Know your financial institution’s ATM policies. Each organization will have a different set of fees involved with ATM transactions. Many institutions will waive fees if you use their own ATMs — or they’ll waive them if you have a certain type of account or carry a certain balance. If you can get an account that doesn’t charge extra ATM fees, that’s an easy way to save.

Your institution may also have a deal with other banks, credit unions, or ATM networks to let you use their ATMs for free. Knowing what different types of ATMs cost you — and making sure you use the ones that cost you least — can add up to real savings over time.

2. Know where fee-free ATMs are located. Now that you know what your financial institution charges for ATM use — and, more importantly, which ATMs they don’t charge for — it’s time to check out where you can find fee-free ATMs. Your financial institution’s website should offer an easy way to search for ATM locations, and you may find they’re located in more places than branch offices. Take note of any that are near home, work, or school, and next time you need cash, make a point of swinging by a fee-free ATM.

pig_cap_300w3. Plan around your need for cash. We often pay ATM fees just because they’re convenient. Perhaps the ATM nearest your home or office is one that charges a fee, and when you’re in a hurry, paying the fee seems easier than trekking out to your financial institution. But if you know you’re going to need cash for a night out or a trip out of town, you should plan to take the time to visit your financial institution to get the cash you need.

4. Be sure you get enough cash. If you’re making a withdrawal, you’ll want to make sure you’re withdrawing enough to cover your cash needs. A cash emergency is just the sort of thing that will drive you to the nearest ATM, whether it charges a fee or not. And if you’re making a withdrawal at an ATM that charges a fee, remember that you’re typically paying a flat fee regardless of how much you take out — that means getting $20 or getting $40 will cost you the same in fees, but getting $20 now and $20 later means you’ll pay fees twice.

5. Get cash back instead of using an ATM. Many retailers — most notably grocery stores — will let you get cash back when you make a purchase using your debit card. This can make for an easy ATM substitution: instead of stopping by the ATM, get the extra cash you need whenever you swing by the grocery store.

Now get out there and live free of ATM fees!

Posted in: PenFed 5, Personal Finance, Saving Money
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