Avoid ATM fees: Grab
cash at the register
Want to avoid those
pesky surcharges at the automated teller machine? Buy some stamps.
Starting in July, people will be
able to withdraw as much as $50 from their personal bank accounts
when they pay with the debit feature of their ATM card at any post
"They can kill two birds with one
stone and there's no fee," said Elizabeth Schafer, a payment technologies
officer at the U.S. Postal Service. "They make the post office their
first stop. They buy their stamps, they get cash back and then go
about their errands."
Fee charged for a non-account holder to
use bank-owned ATM.
Example: You have an account at Bank A
but use Bank B's ATM. Bank B will charge you a surcharge.
Make sure to review what your bank charges for to you to use
another bank's ATM system. You may have to pay a surcharge
to Bank B and a non-bank owned ATM charge to Bank A.
was big hit
A pilot program in 129 offices in the Dallas/Fort Worth area proved
to be so popular with customers and so cost-effective for the post
office that it decided to offer cash back at all of its 32,000 locations.
The post office will be offering debit-paying customers cash back
in $10 increments with a maximum of $50.
The cash back offer is limited
to customers who use a personal identification number to activate
their debit cards. Cards that require a signature are not eligible.
They almost never are.
More merchants are offering the
cash back option as a way of cutting down transaction costs. And
more and more consumers -- searching for ways around dreaded ATM
surcharges -- are discovering the convenience of getting cash back.
ATM surcharging started on a national
basis in April 1996 when MasterCard's Cirrus network and Visa's
Plus network lifted bans on the practice, which allows banks to
charge non-account holders fees for using a bank-owned ATM.
want that cash
Many bank customers have been seething ever since. To avoid paying
charges, they have learned to stick to their own bank's ATMs and
to pay with the debit feature of their ATM cards. And they're beginning
to ask for cash back.
And experts say consumers would
be wise to request cash back wherever available.
Most banks charge non-bank customers
for ATM use, and they typically do not charge a fee if their cards
are used at the cash register, said Alan P. Pohlman, executive vice
president at Carmody & Bloom, a Ridgewood, N.J.-based consulting
Supermarkets, gas stations and
stores like Walgreen's and Wal-Mart all offer cash back at the register
when customers pay with debit cards. And experts say the amount
of money available to customers at the register is on the rise.
More than 30% of grocery chains give cash
A February survey by Carmody & Bloom of supermarkets from across
the country reveals that one-third of the chains surveyed allow
customers to withdraw more than $100 from bank accounts at the check-out
line. Pohlman points out that just five years ago the maximum withdrawal
Wal-Mart offers its debit customers
cash back in $20 increments with a maximum of $100.
"Retailers are recognizing that
there is more demand for cash back particularly in light of ATM
surcharging," Pohlman said.
Experts say getting cash back with
a debit card is just beginning to catch on with consumers. But word
is getting out.
Members of the West Coast-based
No-Surcharge ATM alliance -- which boasts 430 financial institutions
and more than 2,900 ATMs in 11 states-- encourage customers to pay
with debit cards and to ask for cash back.
the word out
Pulse EFT Association, which stretches across eight states throughout
the South and Southwest, has provided financial institutions with
750,000 statement stuffers in the past three months that explain
how customers can get cash back when they pay with their debit card.
"It's very handy and it's growing,"
said Cindy Ballard, executive vice president with Houston-based
Pulse. "A lot of merchants are pushing this. Clerks are asking,
'Do you want cash back?' "
For merchants, it boils down to
"In our network we've been offering
cash back for years and years. Merchants have latched on to it.
It's money management for them. They're able to get cash out of
their drawers." Ballard said.
Pulse Pay, the association's cash
back option for customers paying with debit cards, is available
everywhere from supermarkets and gas stations to convenient stores
and fast food restaurants.
Ballard also pointed out that association transactions in which
customer used debit cards with personal identification numbers grew
by 73 percent this year, and many customers are paying with debit
to avoid ATM surcharges. Cash back is the next logical step.
"Consumers are smart," Ballard
said. "They know how to use their ATM card at the point of sale
and they're learning that cash back is an option."
How to Avoid ATM Surcharges
Use ATMs offered by your financial
institution. Most are free.
Seek out surcharge-free ATMs.
Cut down on ATM visits by withdrawing
more cash per visit.
Pay with the debit feature
of an ATM card.
Ask for cash back when paying
with debit cards at supermarkets, drug stores and gas stations.
-- Posted: April 24, 1998