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Automated teller machines have evolved since the 1970s, when banks began to introduce them on a wide scale. As of 2021, there are over 212 ATMs for every 100,000 people in North America, according to The World Bank.
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. There are even some cardless ATMs, which can be used with a virtual card or a mobile banking app.
Transacting at an ATM could come with a couple of charges, though. The total charge will depend on where you bank and what ATM you’re using. Here’s a breakdown of those charges.
What are bank ATM fees?
Most banks and credit unions 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, the ATM owner isn’t the only one that may charge you — your own bank may charge a fee. Some banks waive out-of-network fees, while others reimburse 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 charges a 3 percent transaction fee for ATM withdrawals processed outside of the U.S. Other financial institutions charge lower international 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.
What do different 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:
|Financial institution||Number of free in-network ATMs||Out-of-network fee||International transaction fee||ATM fee reimbursements|
|Ally Bank||More than 43,000||None||Up to 1%||Up to $10 per month|
|Bank of America||About 16,000||$2.50||$5 plus 3%||One out-of-network ATM fee reimbursed for Platinum customers per month; unlimited for higher tiers|
|Capital One||More than 70,000||None||$2 plus 3%||None|
|Connexus Credit Union||Over 54,000||None||Up to 1.5%||Up to $25 per month for the Connexus Xtraordinary Checking account|
|LendingClub Bank||Over 20,000||None||0.9%||Unlimited reimbursements for the Rewards Checking account|
|Wells Fargo||Over 12,000||$2.50||$5||Prime Checking customers get one domestic and one international ATM fee reimbursement per month; unlimited reimbursements for Premier Checking customers|
Average bank ATM fees
Out-of-network ATM fees increased by 1.5 percent over the past year to an average of $4.66 per transaction, according to Bankrate’s 2022 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 ($1.52) plus the average ATM surcharge from the ATM’s owner ($3.14).
Over the course of a year, fees for weekly ATM withdrawals from an out-of-network ATM would total about $242.
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 $5.38 in Atlanta at the high end to $4.21 in Los Angeles.
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 is another way to make inquiries and certain transactions, such as depositing checks, transferring funds between accounts and paying bills, without paying an ATM fee.
Finally, consumers can shop around for 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 getting charged for taking out cash. It also pays to take advantage of cash-back options when checking out at retailers.
— Bankrate’s Matthew Goldberg contributed to a previous version of this article.