How to Save Money on ATM Fees

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The following is a guest post by Anthony (a fellow Yakezie participant!) from Fiscally Sound. Enjoy! 

How to Save Money on ATM Fees

I recently heard the argument for removing the penny from the US currency. It made me wonder if we will ever get to the point where we don’t have currency at all since so many people use plastic. I mean, if you have a (debit) card that represents your money, what else could you need?

Well, the problem comes in when you use that same card to get cash. At least that’s where the fees can come in, and they can add up too. It can turn a $2.00 ice cream fix into a $7.50 crime. Imagine you just want that ice cream fix but you don’t have cash. You are at a little ice cream stand that doesn’t take plastic, so you run to the closest ATM machine. They charge a $3.50 fee, but your bank also charges a $2.00 fee. But, you aren’t thinking about that. You are just thinking that it’s hot and you want some ice cream. When you sit down and do the math, that ice cream just doesn’t taste as good.

So let’s chat about how to keep that from happening. Here are some tips for reducing ATM fees.

  1. Better Planning. If you use an envelope system for your budget, then you will either have the money or you won’t and if you stick to that, you will reduce random ATM runs.
  2. Get Cash Back. If you are using your debit card for a purchase, there is rarely – if ever – a charge for getting cash back from your transaction. Do some pre-planning when you are going shopping and think ahead to see if you will need any cash.
  3. Find a Fee Free ATM. You can do a Google search to find fee free ATM’s in your area, or you can visit AllPoint to find one of their fee free ATM’s. They also feature a mobile app for convenience.
  4. Find a Better Bank. Some banks or credit unions offer fee free ATM’s and reimburse you for any out of network ATM’s. If yours doesn’t, it might be a good opportunity to switch banks.
  5. Micro Emergency Fund. My dad taught me to always keep an extra $5, $10, or $20 bill in my wallet for the unexpected. That can really pay off these days, more so than when he recommended it.

In the end (and thankfully) cash is still king. I have not heard of anyone charging surcharges for using cash, yet.

Hopefully you found this helpful. If you want to put it in perspective, if you save one $3.50 ATM fee every week, that can add $182.00 per year to your savings. And if you compound that savings over 20 years at just 3%, you will have nearly an additional $5,000 in your retirement. Look, you just paid for your retirement cruise. 🙂

How about you all? How often do you find yourself paying ATM fees for getting cash? Does it happen often, or only in rare occasions where you are in a bind/emergency? Does your bank charge you a fee to use the ATM? 

In the future, do you think a fee will start being charged for using CASH?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

Jacob’s Thoughts – Listed below are my random thoughts as I was reading this article.

  • Great post here, Anthony! Thanks so much for sharing it with us today! 
  • It really breaks my heart when I am in a bar, restaurant, or convenience store and see someone using the “convenience ATM” within the establishment, as you can almost be assured that this person is paying a pretty hefty fee just to withdraw the small amount of money needed to cover their bill.
  • Personally, I think that in today’s competitive banking environment, people should not have to EVER pay an ATM fee, as there is almost always some way to avoid it (except maybe when you are traveling abroad in another country – it’s hard to get around it totally in that case!). 
  • @ How I avoid ATM fees –
    • For the most part, Anthony covered the main ways I save myself from having to pay ATM fees. 
    • First, my bank (Bank of America) does not charge fees in general to use the ATM. In fact, it seems that they prefer you to bank that way to save on cost of labor inside branches.
    • Second, I try to always carry around about $20-$30 in cash in my wallet at all times. I use this cash only in case of emergencies when credit cards/debit cards are not accepted. 
  • @ Will there ever be a surcharge for paying in cash?
    • Anthony brings up an interesting idea to think about – will stores start charging a fee in order to pay with cash vs. paying with plastic?
    • With the funds infrastructure the way it currently is (I don’t think it costs anything for a store owner to go to the bank and withdraw cash to use for change, etc), I think we’re still a good ways from this happening. 
    • What do you all think about this question?

***Photo courtesy of


  1. Thankfully my bank reimburses for atm fees. Even so – I still try to avoid those convenience atm fees. I'm a stockholder of my bank so I don't want them to have to pay the cost either! Planning is crucial, you're right.

  2. Personally I mostly just try to avoid using ATMs that are not from my specific bank. Since I have to go to my bank each month to deposit some checks, I just make sure to take out some cash then. Also I try to use my credit card wherever possible and only use cash when they do not accept credit.

    I don't think we'll see a fee on cash transactions anytime soon. Since credit cards charge such high merchant fees, I just don't see a bank charging more than that for cash related transactions.
    My recent post The Decision To Get A New Job

    • Well said Modest Money. Like you, I haven't had to pay an ATM fee in a very long time since I use only the ATM's at my own bank.
      My recent post Sensible Spending and Saving For You And Your Family

  3. Julie@Freedom48 says:

    You've got some great points. Those ATM fees can be a killer.

    Another good strategy is to withdraw a larger amount of money, less often. I used to withdraw $20 once a week for spending money. I now take out $80 once a month. I never pay ATM fees, but I do have a limited number of free account transactions, so I reduced it from 4 to 1

  4. My bank reimburses the fees so I am one of the folks that will get cash at bar ATMs. Almost always someone will say something about the $3.00 surcharge, but it doesn't matter to me.
    My recent post Late Night Dinner on the Road at the Green Mill

  5. Walgreens, Safeway and many other grocery/drug stores let you draw cash out. I almost always draw out some cash when I go grocery shopping so that I dont have to pay those annoying ATM fees later in the week! Before heading to the ATM and paying the fees, try to see if there’s a store that lets you draw some cash if you purchase something, then find a fruit or something small to purchase. I guess you’re still paying a small fee there, but at least you can utilize the item you purchased instead of giving the money up to the banks!

    • Well said Azra. Wal Mart also lets me withdraw extra cash when using my debit card as well, so I sometimes go with that route.
      My recent post Sensible Spending and Saving For You And Your Family

  6. My Credit Union reimburses any ATM fees as well. But its been a while since I had to take money out of a non network ATM.
    My recent post 2 Easy Ways to Save Money and Pay off Debt

  7. I don't ever use the ATM, so I don't have to worry about the fees. I hope we don't ever have a world free of paper money. I know many people prefer to use their cards to earn points, etc., but right now, I am happy to use cash.
    My recent post How to Save on Living Expenses When You Live Alone

  8. I try to withdraw large amounts everytime I use the ATM, oftentimes I withdraw from my own bank’s ATM since they don’t charge fees. A $1 or $2 for every transaction every now and then can eat up your funds.

  9. I appreciate all of the feedback. Sorry I didn't respond sooner. Yesterday, I had to use an ATM (well, had to for convenience) and I got hammered in fees. I hate it, but I failed to plan. It won't happen again, especially once I figured out my cash cost me 20%!
    My recent post How You Might Be Paying Your Bank 20% or MORE to Use CASH

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