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Avoiding ATM Fees

Bank account holders pay billions of dollars in ATM fees each year, and much of that could be avoided. The fees we're talking about here are those levied when you use your bank card in an ATM (automated teller machine) that doesn't belong to your bank and that results in your being assessed a fee of around $2.00 a pop.

In order to avoid these fees and save your hard-earned bucks, there are a number of strategies you can employ:

  • The simplest strategy is to only use ATMs that belong to your bank. If you have an account with an institution such as Ubiquitous Behemoth Bank Inc., this is probably a very workable strategy.

  • If you bank with an obscure three-branch bank, look into whether it's a member of any networks that offer in-network ATM access without surcharges. Many small banks and credit unions have formed such networks to better serve their customers. You may find that there are some ATMs near your home or office that won't charge you fees.

  • Plan your withdrawals. Don't withdraw $20 every time you need $20. By planning ahead a little, you can withdraw larger sums of money on fewer occasions, reducing the number of times you're socked with ATM fees. Just don't immediately spend those larger sums on Skee-Ball and aromatherapy -- the withdrawals are advances, not windfalls.

  • Get thee to a supermarket! At many, if not most, supermarkets (and some other establishments), you can pay for your purchases with your ATM card or credit card. Better still, in most cases you can ask the cashier for some extra cash, which will come out of your account, fee-free. (Just make sure that your bank or the grocer doesn't charge for this.)

For more on banking and other places to stash your cash, visit our Savings Center (which features some special deals on interest rates). Also, brokerages can be an attractive alternative to traditional banks. Learn all about brokerages and find one that's right for you in our Broker Center.

For more personal finance and investing basics, visit our Personal Finance area, our Investing Basics area, and our Fool's School. You can also learn a lot via our acclaimed How-to Guides and online seminars and our book,The Motley Fool Money Guide: Answers to Your Questions About Saving, Spending and Investing.

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