I hate to say what I’m about to say but I think only certain ATM fees should be banned.  You might ask why in the world I would say ‘certain’? Well it’s because I can actually understand the premise of out-of-network fees.  It is a courtesy of a bank to let non-account-holding-customers to use their machine. So they should be able to charge a fee.

That fee is usually profit, however there are costs involved in operating a machine.  I know the bank isn’t a charity, neither are the little pop-up ATMs you may find at gas stations or public events.  You certainly don’t want to give away your money to get your money.  That’s why you have to be smarter than the average customer of cash-dispensing machines.

If you live in a small town, like I do, using ATMs isn’t the norm.  However if you travel to a larger city (by larger I mean, larger than Birmingham, AL) ATMs are everywhere and everyone uses them, constantly.

On our travels we’ve hit Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Las Vegas, Kansas City, St. Louis and on and on…  Try to function in those cities without cash and you’ll be in a bind.

Cash is needed for transportation, parking, tipping, even food and drink.

So what are you to do if you are in a city that doesn’t have an ATM or bank from your hometown chain? Check out these tips for saving money on ATM fees when you’re traveling:

  1. Plan Ahead – Stop by an in-network ATM or your bank before venturing into a foreign ATM area – a.k.a. another city or state. Plan ahead for all of the tips, fees, etc.  It may be hard to calculate all the expense but get enough to survive. (Of course play it safe if you plan to walk around in larger cities with cash.)


  1. Read the message – All ATMs should display a fee message at the beginning of the transaction.  Read it.  Don’t just skip over it.  Some ‘fees’ are as high as $5 in some cities.  You can cancel if that price makes you sick.  If you do go ahead with the transaction make sure you get the receipt.  See number three for the reason why.


  1. Don’t forget the receipt – There are some banks and credit unions that offer foreign ATM usage fee reimbursement. If you didn’t hear about that feature from your bank manager when you opened your checking account or savings account, ask them before you hit the road. (Plus that’s good stuff to know just for running around town too)


  1. Never pay fees again – Grocery stores, Walmarts, Targets and drug stores are everywhere on every corner. Stop by and purchase gum, a drink or candy and then hit the cash back option.  It’s cheaper than paying an ATM fee. However be careful, some stores, like Dollar General have been known to charge a 1% fee if you ask for cash back.  So make sure you read the store signs etc. (Also look for minimum purchase signs to use debit cards.)


  1. Investigate – Don’t just deposit your money anywhere – do some research.  Ask about your financial institution’s fees, including ATM and foreign transaction fees, overdraft fees and more. You can use Find A Better Bank to get some guidelines on what you may need in a bank.


  1. Mobile friendly ATM fee zapping apps – There are four apps for smart phone users that will help them locate free ATMs. Allpoint, MoneyPass, CO-OP network and MasterCard Nearby are available for iOS and Google Play devices. Search for the apps in your app store.


  1. Give online only banks a try – Online banks are a great way to avoid ATM fees. Most online exclusive banks reimburse all ATM fees because they do not have a brick and mortar set-up. Research online banks here.