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6 must-have features for checking accounts

Use ATMs for free
Use ATMs for free © Meryll/Shutterstock.com

Free ATMs are readily available nationwide, says Bankrate's McBride.

McBride says that a number of smaller community banks belong to large ATM alliances like Allpoint. It offers more than 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs around the country and in other countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada.

Some statewide credit unions also have banded together. More than 400 credit unions in Pennsylvania formed the ATM Surcharge-Free Alliance, with access to more than 1,200 ATMs. Nationwide, credit unions forged the Alliance One network of more than 4,700 fee-free ATMs in 42 states.

There's good reason to avoid fees. ATM surcharges already are inching up to $2.60, according to Bankrate's 2013 Checking Survey, so ATMs with surcharges can quickly add up. When you tack on out-of-network fees, the total charge averages $4.13 per withdrawal.

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