4 Real Ways to Never Pay ATM Fees Again

4 Real Ways to Never Pay ATM Fees Again

I see quite a few posts on the web about how people can avoid ATM fees, but a lot of the information looks recycled from other posts.  Some of the suggestions seem kind of obvious too, like getting cash back at the register and making larger ATM withdrawals to decrease total visits.   


Plus I’ve never seen someone talk about the two different kinds of ATM fees. So this time, you’re going to hear it straight from Banker X, an industry insider.


There’s two types of ATM fees

The first thing to understand is there are two different types of ATM fees for the US market.

  • Foreign ATM fee – from your bank

  • ATM surcharge fee – from the ATM owner

A typical ATM withdrawal and both fees will look like the following on your account activity. Notice how the surcharge fee is added to the withdrawal amount.


Beginning Balance $100.00
ATM Withdrawal $52.00
Foreign ATM Fee $2.00
Ending Balance $46.00


The Foreign ATM fee

This fee is actually named wrong and what I call the sneaky fee.  When someone tells me something is “foreign”, I think it’s something outside this country. We’ll that’s what most people think of when you say “foreign ATM fee.”  They think it doesn’t apply to them since they only use ATMs in the US.  It’s sneaky because you don’t need to agree to it on every ATM transaction –  since you agreed to it at account opening. It simply gets deducted from your account after the ATM withdrawal.

The foreign ATM fee is the fee your bank charges you to use a machine that’s not owned or managed by them – which is probably most of them.  Banks need to pay “network fees” when you use someone else’s ATM, but it’s usually under 10 cents!  The quest for higher profits has see this foreign ATM fee climb to $3 at some large national banks!  


The ATM Surcharge Fee

This is the type of ATM fee that most people understand because it’s required to pop-up on the ATM screen for acceptance before an ATM withdrawal can be completed.  The ATM surcharge fee is charged by the owner of the ATM machine.  


Now on to the suggestions!


Suggestion  #1.

Find an account that doesn’t have a Foreign ATM Fee.

When you are looking at checking account options, the bank must give you certain disclosures before opening the account.  One of these disclosures is the Truth in Savings disclosure, which will have a schedule of fees.  Any foreign ATM fee must be listed in the schedule. If you see a “Foreign ATM fee”, that’s the one you want to avoid.  Don’t be shy about asking how you can avoid the foreign ATM fee.  One, it will stun the banker you even asked.  Two, the banker will know you’re an educated customer.


Suggestion  2:  

Identify a bank that belongs to a surcharge free ATM network.  

Many banks belong to a regional or national surcharge free ATM network for the benefit of their customers. To name a few of these networks – SUMⓇ, AllpointⓇ, and MoneypassⓇ.  A bank pays about $0.50 cents per card, per month to belong to the AllpointⓇ network.  (That’s how the network makes money.)  ATM owners make a smaller surcharge fee, but on a higher volume of transactions.   Such a network gives you access to a huge nationwide ATM network. To give you an example, AllpointⓇ has over 45,000 ATMs in the US while Bank of AmericaⓇ has about 12,000.   Combined with suggestion 1, you’ll eliminate all ATM fees.


Suggestion 3:  

Find a relationship account that refunds all ATM fees.

Some banks have accounts that refund all ATM fees.  That means they’ll reimburse you all ATM surcharge fees at the end of every month.  These account types don't usually have a foreign ATM fee.  This may be a relationship type of account that requires some combination of deposit and loan balances.  Start where you have any mortgage or IRAs as those will usually qualify you for the best type of relationship account.


Suggestion 4:

Find a bank with a rewards checking account.

This is the fail safe option – if nothing else works – go with this one.  Rewards checking accounts will pay higher interest on your balances and refund all ATM fees if certain monthly activity requirements are met. The monthly activity requirements are usually pretty simple

  1. At least one ACH transaction (deposit or withdrawal)

  2. Choose estatements

  3. At least 12 debit card transactions per month

The first two requirements are pretty simple in setting up a payroll direct deposit or some monthly payment. (Don’t use your debit card number for the payment because that’s not an ACH payment.)  You only have to enroll in estatements once to start receiving them every month. Once you have them both set-up, you don’t have to worry about it going forward. The 3rd requirement is no big deal if you’re a debit card user. It’s only 3 per week – lunch, groceries, and gas.


Many people think a rewards checking is only for people with larger balances because banks tout the high interest as the main selling point.  It works just as well for smaller balance customers who want to avoid ATM fees.  Heck, take the high interest too! It’s coffee money.


BankerXI’m Banker X and I’m on your side I'm a banking industry insider on a mission to help people save money, make money, and with financial literacy.  Please share this information with others and join my weekly updates if you found it useful.