ATM Fees Can Break the Bank
By Donna McNeill
GreenPath Chief Operating Officer
At GreenPath, we remind our clients of some of the obvious ways to save money: Pack your lunch a few days a week, cut back on the gourmet coffee and stick to your budget. Also, we remind them to consider how they use automated teller machines (ATMs).
Recently, there was a story about ATM fees and how consumers were charged more than $6 billion in ATM and overdraft fees in 2015.
While you think spending an extra few dollars here or there for convenience doesn’t add up, the results can be surprising. Here are some reminders, when it comes to using the ATM:
- Always use an in-network ATM. It costs nothing to access your own financial institution’s ATM. When you use out-of-network ATM’s there are generally two fees: one from your own institution and one from the ATM you are using.
- A lot of financial institutions now have a Smartphone app to help members find an in-network ATM, which eliminates the fee.
- If you are a frequent user of ATMs, then location of ATMs should be a factor you consider, when choosing a bank or credit union. Make sure there are ATMs near your home, workplace, school, or other frequented locations.
- You can also shop for a financial institution that does not charge ATM fees. There are a few out there, but they may require you to keep a higher minimum balance.
- The fee is always disclosed during the transaction. Since fees vary from ATM to ATM, pay attention to the amount of the fee each time.
- Generally fees are higher in places like airports, convenience stores, restaurants and bars.
- Plan ahead when you are going out: get your cash from your financial institution on the way instead of at your destination, where fees could be much higher.
- Another trick to avoid ATM fees is to make a purchase with your debit card at check-out and then use the cash-back option.
- A common mistake that we see consumers make is visiting an out-of-network ATM multiple times in a short period of time and paying fees. Those fees add up quickly.
- If you cannot access an ATM in your network, then some pre-planning is helpful. Think about the total amount of cash you need for the day or week, and make one withdrawal with one fee. Paying a $3 fee to withdraw $20 equates to a 15% fee, while paying $3 to withdraw $100 is only 3%.
- Be sure to keep track of all of your withdrawals and your account balance, to avoid compounding the problem with overdraft or transfer fees.
Finally, read the fine print when it comes to using your ATM, whether it’s in-network or out-of-network. Check your monthly statement closely, and remember to use common sense when it comes to using your ATM card.