5 ways to avoid ATM fees

Bank robbery used to mean that a desperado would go into a bank, all guns blazing, and steal money. Today, however, it’s much different.

The modern bank robber is more likely to wear a white shirt with a red or blue tie and a dull dark grey or blue suit. Or maybe an equally boring pant suit or dress if it’s a woman. That’s because the bank robber has become the banker him or herself.

Paying an ATM fee to access your own money is reverse bank robbery, plain and simple!

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Unfortunately, Americans are victims all the time. The average fee to withdraw money as a non-customer from a foreign ATM was $4.52 last year, according to Bankrate’s 2015 Checking Survey.

If you’re tired of throwing your hard-earned money away, consider these alternatives…

1. Use your own bank’s ATM. You’re often hit twice to use an ATM as a non-customer: Once by your own bank and once by the institution that owns the foreign ATM. So this one is a basic no-brainer — Use your own bank’s ATMs exclusively and you’ll never pay another ATM fee again!

2. Find retail partner ATMs. Many banks will have agreements in place with retailers to be their preferred ATM provider. Wells Fargo ATMs can be found in QT gas stations and Citibank ATMs are in 7-Elevens. Those are just two examples of the many affiliate partnerships out there. Ask your bank who their affiliates are.

3. Get cash back at the register. Many supermarkets will give you up to $200 at the register, fee-free. Ditto for the major pharmacy chains. (This is a great way for stores to reduce cash on hand.) In addition, Sam’s Club allows you to get up to $100 cashback when you check out.

4. Bank with an organization that will eat the fee for you. A couple of examples are USAA and Charles Schwab. They absorb or refund the ATM fee when you use a foreign ATM, up to a set amount. Here’s another idea: Many of the credit unions that have large co-op networks offer free ATMs.

5. Borrow from a friend or family member. Why not just borrow a few bucks rather than pay a hefty fee at an alien ATM? Paypal, Venmo, Square Cash and Google Wallet are all great options for this approach.

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Clark Howard is famous for obsessively remembering the last time he paid an ATM fee: June 1996 in Moab, Utah, to be exact!

It’s been nearly 20 years and he’s still rankling over it. Don’t be like Clark: Avoid ATM fees at all costs!

Theo Thimou,

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