How to Avoid ATM Fees

Quick Answer

Three ways to withdraw cash and avoid ATM fees are:

  1. Use in-network ATMs
  2. Open an account with ATM reimbursements
  3. Get cash back at a store
A traveler wearing a backpack withdraws money from an ATM in a train station.

If you use an ATM, you could get hit with two fees—surcharges from the ATM operator itself and out-of-network ATM fees from your bank. There are ways to get around these banking fees, however. When you need to draw cash, you can avoid ATM fees by using in-network ATMs, choosing a bank that offers ATM fee reimbursements or requesting cash back at checkout in certain stores.

1. Use Only In-Network ATMs

Traditional banks, online banks and credit unions typically provide a network of ATMs that customers can use without ATM fees. For major brick-and-mortar banks, fee-free ATMs may be at full-service branches and separate locations. For example, Wells Fargo has 12,000 free ATM locations nationwide; some ATMs are at banks and others are standalone ATMs.

Some banks and credit unions provide a larger network of fee-free ATMs with locations in the U.S. and internationally. For example, the Co-op ATM network provides credit union members with over 30,000 fee-free ATMs in the U.S. and has more than 100 ATMs in other countries.

AllPoint is another popular ATM network that partners with banks and credit unions, such as Ally Bank, Discover Bank and PenFed Credit Union. When using AllPoint ATMs, there's no operator surcharge fee, and partnering financial institutions won't charge you an out-of-network ATM fee either. AllPoint has locations in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Australia. You can search for in-network ATM locations on your financial institution's app or website.

2. Choose a Bank Account That Reimburses Out-of-Network ATM Fees

Another way to avoid or minimize ATM withdrawal fees is to sign up for a checking account where ATM fees are reimbursed. Some financial institutions reimburse all fees or cap ATM fee reimbursements to a certain amount; for example, the ATM fee rebate cap could be $15 per month. The ATM rebate is often automatically credited to your checking account at the end of the statement period, so you don't have to worry about taking extra steps to get reimbursed.

For example, Axos Banks offers unlimited ATM fee reimbursements for domestic ATM withdrawals on checking accounts. Navy Federal Credit Union is another example of a financial institution that will reimburse up to $10 or $20 in monthly ATM fees, depending on the type of checking account you sign up for. Doing a search online for bank accounts that provide ATM fee reimbursements can help you shop for different options.

3. Get Cash Back at a Store

Drawing from an ATM isn't the only way to add cash to your wallet. If you need cash to, say, pay a dog sitter or leave a tip, you could request cash back when checking out at a store. Payment terminals at supermarkets, pharmacies and big box stores may ask if you want cash back when paying with a debit card.

There may, however, be limits to how much you can draw. Additionally, using this method requires that you're paying for at least part of your transaction with a debit card, so it's important that you ensure there's enough money in your account to cover both your purchase and the cash you receive back.

The Bottom Line

While paying digitally is a popular way to exchange money, there could be instances where you need physical cash. Maybe you want to buy candy for a team fundraiser or you want to eat at a cash-only restaurant. Going to the ATM around the block might be convenient, but it could also be costly when you factor out-of-network ATM fees and surcharges into the equation.

Logging into your banking app to search for fee-free ATM options, using a checking account that offers fee reimbursements or getting cash back at a store are ways to get money while keeping ATM fees to a minimum.