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How to avoid ATM fees

Sept. 21, 2022
4 min read
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Around here, paying cash is something we generally try to avoid. But what's even worse than missing out on credit card rewards with a cash purchase is not having the cash on hand for the purchase and having to pay an ATM fee.

Here are five of the best ways to avoid those painful ATM fees.

Plan ahead

It may seem obvious, but the best way to avoid paying an ATM fee is to be prepared for instances where you will need to pay cash. Then, you can choose an option and have cash on hand when you need it rather than be surprised in the moment and frantically look for an ATM nearby.

Think about your activities ahead of time. If you're going to an event that requires paid parking, you can guess it might require cash. Similarly, your local county fair may accept credit cards for some things, but you know you'll want to make sure you have enough cash to pay for games and fried delicacies if they don't.

TETRA IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

Additionally, it's always a good idea to carry some emergency cash. Keeping a few twenties in your wallet is a great way to help make sure you never get caught without cash and have to pay an ATM fee.

Related: Save on ATM fees overseas

Stay in network

If you know ahead of time that you need to get cash, visiting an ATM in your bank's network is likely your easiest option. If the ATM is in their network, your bank won't charge you an out-of-network ATM fee. While you're at it, go ahead and get a little bit more cash than you think you'll need so you can have that emergency stash in your wallet.

For example, if you have a Chase debit card, you'll want to find a Chase ATM to reduce your fees. Conversely, if you use your Chase debit card to withdraw cash from a Bank of America ATM, you'll be charged an out-of-network ATM fee.

Get cash back

If you don't have an ATM in your bank's network nearby, getting cash back at a store is another great option to avoid an out-of-network ATM fee. Just make a small purchase at a store, like a pack of gum, and pay with your debit card.

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At checkout, you can either tell the cashier or select the button on the self-checkout to request cash back. At that point, the process is much like an ATM: You just request the amount of cash you need. Aside from the small purchase, you get your cash without having to pay any fees.

Use mobile payments

Sometimes, you're out of your emergency cash and realize a merchant doesn't accept credit cards. Before you run off to an ATM, ask if they accept mobile payments. Sometimes a merchant can scan a card in your mobile wallet even if they don't have a physical card reader. If that's the case, having your mobile wallet set up can save you the cost of an ATM fee.

DJELICS/GETTY IMAGES

Get your ATM fees reimbursed

Some banks actually reimburse ATM fees, so opening an account with one of them is a great option. With one of these accounts, you can have far more peace of mind when you find yourself needing last-minute cash.

If you want to go this route, the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account is an excellent option. In addition to reimbursing ATM fees on domestic purchases, having this account is also great for when you're spending abroad. Use the debit card associated with this account to avoid foreign transaction fees as well as to make sure you're reimbursed for any international ATM fees. Plus, this account has no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees.

Related: Accounts to avoid foreign ATM fees

Bottom line

Don't add insult to injury when you have to pay cash for a purchase by also paying an ATM fee. Plan ahead and get cash from an ATM in your bank's network or from a store to make sure you're ready when you find yourself in a cash-only situation. Additionally, have your mobile wallet set up and consider opening a bank account that reimburses ATM fees. With these strategies in place, you should be able to avoid ever paying an out-of-network ATM fee.

Featured image by STEFANI REYNOLDS/BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees