Automated teller machines have evolved since the 1970s, when banks began to introduce them on a wide scale. Today, nearly 500,000 ATMs operate in the U.S. market, according to the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA).
Over time, ATMs have evolved to do much more than just dispense cash. You can deposit checks or cash, transfer funds between accounts, get account balance information and pay bills. To keep up with trends, some ATMs permit transactions with a contactless card, a virtual card or a digital debit card app in your smartphone’s digital wallet. But you may get charged for using an ATM. Here’s what you need to know.
What are bank ATM fees?
Most banks have a network of ATMs that offer free access to your money. But if you go outside of the network, a fee may be imposed, including:
- ATM operator fee. Also known as the surcharge, an operator fee is charged by the ATM owner to noncustomers using its ATMs. ATM owners could be a different bank, a business unrelated to banking or even an individual investor looking to earn passive income.
- Your bank’s out-of-network fee. If you use an ATM machine outside of your bank’s network, you may get stuck paying that other bank’s fee — plus your own bank may charge you a fee. Some banks waive out-of-network fees, while others will reimburse you for ATM fees charged by outside banks, usually up to a limit.
- International transaction fee. Consumers who use ATMs while traveling outside the U.S. will want to be aware of additional fees. For example, Bank of America customers with the Advantage SafeBalance Banking account in New York who use an outside of BofA’s network are charged $2.50 for each withdrawal, transfer or balance inquiry in the U.S. In addition, the ATM operator may impose an access fee for withdrawals. Other financial institutions charge lower transaction fees: Connexus Credit Union charges up to a 1.5 percent transaction fee, while Fidelity customers with a debit card through a brokerage account pay a 1 percent foreign transaction fee.
Average bank ATM fees
Out-of-network ATM fees fell 5 cents over the last year to an average of $4.59 — the lowest since 2016, according to Bankrate’s 2021 checking account and ATM fee study. The amount is the sum of two numbers: the average fee that a bank charges its customers who use an ATM outside of its network ($1.51) plus the average ATM surcharge from the ATM’s owner ($3.08).
Over the course of a year, fees for weekly ATM withdrawals from an out-of-network ATM would total $239.
ATM fees continue to climb. In 1998, when Bankrate first began tracking ATM fees, the average total ATM fee was $1.97.
Total ATM fees vary from city to city, ranging from $5.23 in Atlanta at the high end to $3.90 in Los Angeles.
What do banks charge?
Bankrate reviewed account disclosures for six financial institutions to provide a sample of the variability of ATM fees. Here’s what we found:
|Different types of account ownership||Number of free in-network ATMs||Out-of-network fee charged||Additional information|
|Ally||More than 43,000 Allpoint ATMs in the U.S.||None charged by Ally||Ally will reimburse fees charged at other ATMs, up to $10 per statement cycle.|
|Bank of America||About 17,000||$2.50 for each transaction at a non-BofA ATM in the U.S. and $5 internationally||ATM fees are reimbursed for customers in the Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors program.|
|Capital One||More than 70,000 fee-free Capital One and Allpoint ATMs, which are also located in some pharmacies and stores.||The bank’s 360 checking customers don’t get charged by Capital One||Customers don’t pay foreign transaction fees with 360 products, but if they go outside the Allpoint network, the ATM owner may levy a fee. Non-360 customers might receive a $2 fee when making transactions at an ATM outside of the U.S.|
|Connexus Credit Union||Members have access to more than 54,000 surcharge-free ATMs in the CO-OP and MoneyPass ATM networks.||None charged by Connexus||Customers with a Connexus Xtraordinary Checking account may get $25 worth of monthly rebates on ATM surcharges if certain conditions are met.|
|LendingClub Bank||Customers have access to 20,000-plus ATMs nationwide through the online bank’s arrangement with two surcharge-free ATM networks: MoneyPass and Sum.||None charged by LendingClub Bank||Customers get ATM fee rebates for all out-of-network ATMs with no limits on transactions.|
|Wells Fargo||No charge for Wells Fargo customers at more than 13,000 ATMs||$2.50 for account balance inquiries as well as transfers between linked accounts at certain nonbank ATMs. $2.50 fee for cash withdrawals at non-Wells Fargo ATMs in the U.S.||Primary Wells Fargo Portfolio Checking account customers get unlimited reimbursements worldwide.|
How to avoid ATM fees
ATM fees may be objectionable but they are avoidable with some simple strategies.
“Like with health insurance, when it comes to ATM fees it pays to stay in network,” says Greg McBride, CFA, chief financial analyst for Bankrate. “Going outside the network often involves paying two fees — one to the ATM owner and another to your own bank. Getting cash back when using your debit card at a supermarket or pharmacy is another option for accessing cash either for free or a much lower cost than the double whammy of out-of-network ATM fees.”
Additionally, consumers can avoid ATM fees by going into a physical bank branch to make a variety of transactions or account inquiries. Mobile banking may also help with inquiries and certain transactions, such as depositing checks, transferring funds between accounts and paying bills, and will avoid ATM fees.
Consumers can also choose an online bank with a large ATM network or one that reimburses some ATM fees.
Even as cashless payment options become more popular, there are still times when paying with cash is necessary or preferred. Knowing which ATMs can be used without incurring a fee can help you avoid any charges related to having the cash in hand that you need.