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How To Save Money on Bank ATM Fees

Updated on August 18, 2014

It's Your Money... Keep it!

A friend of mine used to charge anything and everything on his credit card. Then one day he stopped cold turkey. I asked him, "Why did you start paying cash?"

He said, "I suddenly realized how much money I was paying each month in interest."

I asked him, "... but didn't you already know that?"

He was sheepish as he told me "... it didn't seem real until I started thinking about that money as MY MONEY. I was paying them real money."

In other words, he changed his habits after he thought about that interest in a new way.

Here's How To Think About ATM Fees

Imagine this -- you go into your local bank and ask to withdraw $40 from your account. The clerk smiles widely, gets out two crisp $20 bills and then... she explains the bank's new policy:

"We now charge $4.50* for you to withdraw your money."

Before you drop dead of a heart attack, do a quick calculation in your head: a $4.50 charge to withdraw $40 equals... 11.25% "interest." (Let me guess -- if you have a savings account at this bank, what are they paying you? Maybe 1%? And all the while they're charging you 11.25% to withdraw $40 from your checking account.)

This is an awful deal, right?

Here's another way of thinking about it: you requested $40 and then walk away with $35.50.

Would you let them get away with this?

* Fees vary -- you may be paying more than this!

The Highway Robbery of ATM Fees

Nope, you wouldn't let the teller rip you off like that.

And yet... this is exactly what happens when you withdraw money from an ATM that doesn't belong to your bank. The not-your-bank ATM charges you upwards of $3.00 and then your bank charges you upwards of $2.50 for the privilege of using another's bank's ATM.

Outrageous, right? And yet... how many times have you punched that button where you agree to pay the fee?

Uhhh, you don't have to answer that question.

It's crazy.

How do you avoid this fee?

  • use your bank's ATM machine -- no fee is charged
  • withdraw $100 while at a no-fee ATM, rather than $40 (or $20) so you'll have cash when you need it, rather than being forced to use the nearest available ATM that might charge fees
  • thinking ahead can save you really big bucks!

This is an excellent book to help you manage your money

Find A Bank That Charges No ATM Fees

If you use a small bank with only a few ATM machines, or a large bank with ATM machines that aren't convenient to your home/school/work, then why not change?

There are financial institutions that no longer charge ATM fees.

Where do you find them? At credit unions. Find one in your town! If you don't know of one, then go to the Credit Union National Association ( and use their search engine to find one in your area.

Some small, regional banks are now offering "No ATM Fee" programs. Find them by googling "Find A Bank That Charges No ATM Fees" to get more information.

After all, you wouldn't let a human teller charge you to withdraw your own money, why would you let a machine get away with it?


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    • Buster Bucks profile image

      Buster Bucks 8 years ago from Sonoma County, California

      Hi Jennifer,

      I was in the UK 2 years ago. I took $400 in cash, and exchanged it for pounds at a bank (though I waited until I was away from the airport where the exchange rate isn't so good... I found a bank that was close to my hotel, near the financial district.)

      Then I used my American Express card as much as possible, and the cash lasted for my entire stay. This is the only way I know of to avoid the ATM fees, which are fairly substantial.

      Good luck -- and have fun! Thanks for writing, I appreciate it.


    • profile image

      Jennifer 8 years ago

      My bank does not charge a fee when using their ATM, but is there any way to avoid ATM fees when traveling to Europe? I don't want to take cash b/c then I'll have to pay exchange fees and b/c of the safety factor with cash.