ATMs have continued to evolve since banks began rolling them out on a large scale in the 1970s. According to the World Bank, North America will have more than 212 ATMs per 100,000 people by 2021.
Over time, ATMs have evolved to do more than just dispense cash. You can deposit checks or cash, transfer money between accounts, get account balance information, and pay bills. There are even some card-not-present ATMs that work with virtual cards or mobile banking apps.
However, ATM transactions may involve some fees. The total fee depends on where your bank is located and which ATM you use. Here is a breakdown of those fees.
What are ATM fees?
Most banks and credit unions have ATM networks where withdrawals are free. However, if you move out of network, fees may apply, including:
- ATM operator fees. Also known as a surcharge, an operator fee that ATM owners charge non-customers to use their ATMs. The ATM owner can be another bank, a non-bank company, or even an individual investor looking to generate passive income.
- Your bank’s off-net fee. If you use an ATM outside your bank’s network, it’s not just the ATM owner who may charge you – your own bank may charge a fee. Some banks waive off-line handling fees, and some banks refund the ATM handling fees collected by outsiders, generally with a certain limit.
- International transaction fees. Consumers using ATMs while traveling outside the United States should be aware of additional fees. For example, Bank of America charges a 3% transaction fee on ATM withdrawals processed outside of the United States. Other financial institutions charge lower fees for international transactions.
Connexus Credit Union charges up to 1.5% on transactions, while Fidelity customers who use debit cards through their brokerage accounts pay 1% on international transactions.
How to Avoid High ATM Fees
If you’re paying too much in ATM fees, you have a number of options to cut costs right away. These methods all involve planning ahead and thinking about your ATM habits.
- Use your bank’s app to find branches and free ATMs near you
- Choose the cash back option when paying at grocery stores and other retailers
- Withdraw cash less frequently but in larger amounts
You can stick to free ATMs by keeping track of where your bank operates ATMs and branches. The same goes for finding out which local stores offer cash back options. Withdrawing more money reduces the number of ATM withdrawals, but carrying more cash carries a greater risk of loss. If these options are not practical or suitable for you, you can also avoid ATM fees by switching banks.
Find no-fee checking accounts with no ATM fees
Several banks offer free checking accounts with no out-of-network ATM fees, no matter which ATM you choose to use. Some banks go a step further by offering discounts on any ATM fees you pay to other companies. Here are some of the best examples:
Ally Bank: Ally is a large online bank, which means it doesn’t operate its own physical branches. However, the bank is offering free ATM access in the US through a partnership with Allpoint, a company with more than 55,000 ATMs across the country. Additionally, Ally account holders pay no off-network ATM fees and receive up to $10.00 per month in reimbursement for any ATM operator fees they pay other companies.
Aspiration: Aspiration Summit Account is an online verification option with free access to any ATM in the world. In addition to providing free access to all ATMs in the SUM network, the company reimburses any ATM fees you pay to other banks or operators each month. The account also doesn’t charge a monthly fee, so it’s a fairly cheap option.
Capital One 360: Capital One charges some ATM fees — but anyone with a Capital One 360 checking account gets a free pass for those fees. While online checking account status means that Capital One 360 Checking offers limited brick-and-mortar services, you will not pay any monthly fees or non-network ATM fees. However, Capital One will not reimburse the carrier fees charged by other companies when you use another company’s ATM. Capital One, like Ally, is a partner in the Allpoint ATM network.
Schwab Bank: Another online option, the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Current Account offers unlimited rebates on all ATM fees worldwide. There are no monthly fees or minimum balances for this checking account, but you do need to open a Schwab One brokerage account—also free. If you’re looking for an easy investment option with no ATM fees, Schwab is a great choice
Switch to a High Yield Checking Account
One way to reduce domestic ATM fees is to upgrade your regular checking account to a high-yield account. Some banks may waive fees for non-network ATMs or reimburse you for carrier fees charged by other ATM owners. However, high-yield accounts typically incur monthly service fees that cannot be avoided unless you meet a high minimum account balance. Here’s how upgrading to High Yield Verification will affect your ATM costs at some major banks:
Chase: Chase Premier Plus Checking reimburses account holders four times per billing cycle, while their Premier Platinum checking account offers unlimited free use of non-Chase ATMs. Premier Plus accounts have a monthly fee of $25 unless you have an average daily balance of at least $15,000 through linked accounts or automatic payments associated with Chase mortgages. Platinum level accounts are billed at $35 per month unless you have $75,000 or more in your qualifying account.
Citibank: Benefited from partnerships with 7-Eleven and free ATM finder MoneyPass, providing its customers access to 34,000 ATMs nationwide. Additionally, Citigold cardholders pay no bank fees when using unaffiliated ATMs. Citigold members must have over $50,000 in their Citibank account or over $100,000 in accounts including investment portfolios.
Citizens Bank: Premium chequing accounts like the Citizens Bank Platinum and Platinum Plus accounts allow you to waive ATM fees up to four times per month. However, you’ll need at least $25,000 to avoid the $25.00 monthly fee for these premium accounts.
Fifth Third Bank: Preferred checking account waives Fifth Third’s non-network fees, as well as other banks’ carrier fees, which are “refunded same day – up to 10 times per month”. Unless you have at least $100,000 in your deposit and investment account, the account will incur a $25.00 monthly service fee.
KeyBank: The Key Privilege Select chequing account covers an unlimited number of non-KeyBank ATM charges, while two sub-accounts reimburse you the same $6 per month for the same charges. The monthly fee for the Privileged Account is $50.00, which can be avoided by keeping your total balance at or above $100,000.
PNC Bank: Virtual Wallet with Performance Select waives all PNC fees and reimburses unlimited fees charged by other banks. Standard virtual wallet accounts can offer similar benefits, depending on where you live. Once your combined average monthly balance reaches $5,000, PNC Performance Select no longer charges a monthly service fee. Otherwise, you will be charged $25.00 per billing cycle.