It's true that individual credit unions may only have one or two ATMs they operate individually. But these days, most credit unions offer access to a broad ATM network shared with other credit unions called the CO-OP ATM Network.
That network maintains nearly 30,000 ATMs nationwide, including more than 9,000 that can take deposits, and has inked deals with retailers such as Walgreens, 7-Eleven and Costco to keep terminals inside their stores.
"A lot of credit unions, by nature, are very small, and so they have a very limited branch footprint and a very limited number of ATMs," says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate's senior financial analyst. "However, by joining into much larger ATM alliances, they can really level the playing field against much larger banking competitors."
If that's not enough to help you avoid ATM fees, Bankrate's 2013 Credit Union Checking Survey found that some credit unions will waive a certain number of out-of-network ATM fees and even reimburse you for fees charged by other ATM operators.