Automated teller machines have evolved since the 1970s, when banks began to introduce them on a wide scale. Nowadays, around 500,000 ATMs operate in the U.S. market, according to the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA).
Over time, they have evolved to do much more than just dispense cash. At many of today’s ATMs you can deposit checks or cash, transfer funds between accounts, get account balance information and pay bills. To keep up with current trends, some ATMs enable you to make transactions with a contactless card, a virtual card or the digital debit card app in your smartphone’s digital wallet. But you may get charged for using ATMs. 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, fees do come into play, including:
- ATM operator fee – “Also known as the surcharge, this is the fee charged by the ATM owner to a non-customer using the ATM,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate chief financial analyst. ATM owners could be a different bank, a business unrelated to banking or even an individual investor looking to make passive income.
- Your bank’s non-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 will not charge a non-network fee, and others will even reimburse you for ATM fees charged by outside banks, usually up to a limit.
- International transaction fee – For travelers, the devil is in the details. For example, Bank of America customers who use a non-BofA ATM will be charged $5 for each withdrawal, transfer or balance inquiry, on top of a 3 percent transaction fee of the U.S. dollar amount of all withdrawals processed in foreign currency. 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. Fidelity customers with a debit card through a brokerage account pay a 1 percent foreign transaction fee.
Average bank ATM fees
Bankrate’s recent checking account survey found that out-of-network ATM fees dipped 8 cents since last year to an average of $4.64 – the lowest amount in four years. That reflects the sum of two numbers: the average fee that a bank charges their customers who use an ATM outside of its network – $1.56 on average – in addition to the average ATM surcharge from the ATM’s owner – $3.08 on average.
That means if you develop a weekly habit of grabbing cash from an out-of-network ATM, you’d spend in excess of $240 a year on ATM fees, a totally avoidable expense.
Fees have certainly climbed over time. In 1998, when Bankrate first began tracking ATM fees, the average total ATM fee was $1.97.
Total current ATM fees vary from city to city, ranging from $5.60 in Atlanta at the high end to $4.11 in Chicago.
What do banks charge?
Bankrate looked at a handful of financial institutions to give you a peek at 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||Approximately 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|
|The bank’s 360 checking customers don’t get charged by Capital One||Customers don’t pay foreign transaction fees, but if they go outside the Allpoint network, the ATM owner may levy a fee|
|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 rebates on ATM surcharges if certain conditions are met|
|Radius Bank||Customers can access 20,000-plus ATMs nationwide through the online bank’s arrangement with two surcharge-free ATM networks: MoneyPass and Sum||None charged by Radius Bank||Customers get ATM fee rebates for all out-of-network ATMs with no limits on transactions|
|$2 per account balance inquiries as well as transfers between linked accounts at certain non-bank ATMs. $2.50 fee for cash withdrawals at non-Wells Fargo ATMs in the U.S.||ATM fees are waived for customers who live in certain New York cities and who can get reimbursed for up to 3 non-Wells Fargo ATM cash withdrawals per fee period. Primary Wells Fargo Portfolio Checking account customers get unlimited reimbursements|
How to avoid ATM fees
Unless you’re a premium customer, you’ll likely get hit with a fee if you’re not careful. But it’s easy enough to avoid ATM fees.
“Like with health insurance, when it comes to ATM fees it pays to stay in-network,” says Bankrate’s McBride. “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.”
The same strategy applies when traveling outside the U.S. if you want to avoid paying transaction fees, says Thomas Holliger, CFP, president and private wealth manager at Holliger Financial Consulting in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “You can get cash advances in banks if preferred,” he says.
Often there are limits on how much cash can be withdrawn on a daily basis, he adds. He recommends notifying your financial institution before traveling overseas. “They may put a freeze on the account if they think it looks like suspicious activity,” Holliger says.
Even though we’re moving toward becoming a cashless society, there are still times when cash is king. It pays to be prepared by knowing how to access your money without having to pay for the privilege.