My husband just came back from a business trip. He quipped about the ATM fees he had to pay. As he figured out, these small charges can add up quick. At the end of the trip, he'd spent the same amount that it would have cost him to have a nice dinner – one he didn't have - while out of town.
He's not alone. Wells Fargo recently announced that Georgia residents will start paying a monthly fee of $3 if they use their debit card, check card or ATM card. While these customers' only answer might be to switch banks, for the rest of the country there is still hope.
To avoid ATM fees, try:
1) Staying “in-network.” The easiest way to avoid unwanted charges is to visit ATM machines that are in your bank's network. Find convenient locations online or on your smartphone.
2) Getting your ATM fees reimbursed. Though it's not as popular in the current economy, you can still find smaller banks that offer the option of having your ATM fees reimbursed. Charles Schwab is a good example of this.
3) Using your debit card to get cash back. This is my husband's favorite trick, since most ATM cards also work as debit cards. (If they do, they'll have a Visa or MasterCard logo.) Fees for using an “out-of-network” ATM machine can range from $2 to $5. It's cheaper to stop by the grocery store or pharmacy and buy a small drink or snack. Keep in mind that if you need a big amount then you might have to visit a supercenter or another big box retailer, or do multiple transactions.
4) Banking online. Since an online bank has a lower overhead than a brick-and-mortar one, they usually have a bigger ATM network. Banks like Flagstar, Ally Bank and ING Direct offer this service for free.
5) Planning ahead. When nothing else works, plan ahead of that trip. If you are going out of town, I recommend checking that there are in fact ATM machines “in network” at your destination, otherwise visit your local branch before leaving.
Yoly Mason writes about frugality and savings tips and tricks in her popular Atlanta-based Spanish-language blog Cuponeando.net.