Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are everywhere these days. The ATM fees are the fees that banks and networks charge for use of the ATM. In 1998 these fees averaged just over $1.00. Now the fees are normally at least $3.00 and as high as $6.00. Some businesses, like casinos and racetracks, charge even higher fees.

There are three kind of fees that consumers may wind up paying.

ATM Operator Charges: Not all fees are from your bank. If you use a machine that is not from your bank or an affiliated company, the company that operates that ATM can charge you a fee. When it’s the machine of another bank, the fee is normally between $2.00 and $3.50. ATMs that are operated by non-banks usually charge much higher rates for cash withdrawals. This is what happens when you are in a gaming institution like a casino.

Bank Surcharges: You also pay your bank’s surcharge when you withdraw money, in addition to the operator fees. Your bank charges these fees when you use a non-affiliated ATM. This is normally an additional charge, of between $1.50 and $3.50, depending on the bank. Some banks do not assess a transaction fee. However, if a bank does assess this particular fee, it is not disclosed when you withdraw the cash.

International Transaction Fees: International transaction fees are usually much higher for a cash withdrawal. You can expect one charge of anywhere from $2.00 to $7.00, plus a conversion rate calculated as a percentage of the amount withdrawn. Note that the conversion rate percentage is usually around 3 percent of the amount withdrawn.

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Now that you know how much your bank and the other operators may be charging you, let’s look at how to avoid and minimize fees.

No Fee ATMs – No-fee ATMs exist. This is usually the case for ATMS owned by the bank where you have your account. If your bank does not offer free transactions at their ATM, move your account.

Banks That Reimburse Fees – Some banks will reimburse the ATM fees charged by other banks. USAA Bank refunds you up to $15.00 a month in transactions on other ATMs. PNC Bank reimburses all fees from other banks and machine operators.

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Fee-Free Networks – Check to see if your bank is part of a no-fee networks. AllPoint and Moneypass are two networks that have thousands of ATMs where you won’t be charged an ATM fee if you are a member.

Cash Back – Most stores now have an option to get cash back when you make your purchase. If you need some cash and there are no fee-free ATMs, you should get cash back from the stores without fees. This is especially good for situations when you only need a small amount of cash, such as $20.00.

Higher Amounts – If you can’t avoid withdrawing cash on an out of network ATM, you are better off withdrawing more. If you withdraw $20.00 from a machine and also pay a $3.00 fee, then you have just paid a fee that is the equivalent of 15 percent of the total amount withdrawn. However, if you pay $3.00 on a $100.00 withdrawal, you have only paid 3 percent.

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