Avoid ATM Fees on the Go

Got this email from a reader and thought it was brilliant ;)  Any others pull this trick?

“Last week I needed something notarized, but the corner Western Union only takes cash (it cost $1, no biggie) and I was straight up out of cash. Not even change in my cupholders.Even though USAA refunds all my ATM fees, I can’t stand giving ATMs a $3 surcharge on a $20 withdrawal.

Luckily there was CVS right across the street. I ducked in, bought a 12 oz can of Diet Coke for $0.89 and got $30 cash back from my debit card. No ATM fee surcharge, $30 cash and a cool, refreshing beverage on a hot summer day.

This might be especially helpful for people traveling this summer who will be away from their home banks.”

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  1. Shelly @ Coupon Teacher July 6, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    I hate ATM fees, so that is what I do almost anytime I need cash. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Que July 6, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    I was just talking to my daughter about how I was upset that they didn’t have our bank on our side of town. This very “cool” tip might be the solution.

  3. Carrie July 6, 2010 at 5:34 PM

    one of my high school friends taught me that trick. a pack of gum works well too if you want something that you’re not going to eat/drink right away

  4. Ace July 6, 2010 at 7:59 PM

    I used to do this all the time during my time at college! Except I didn’t use it to avoid ATM fees per se, just out of laziness :-) I would hate having to walk to the ATM for my bank so whenever I was at a store that would offer cash back I use my debit and get some cash back. Great tip, especially in the context of traveling.

  5. Sense July 6, 2010 at 9:08 PM

    i used to do this lots. then i tried it in NYC–doesn’t work there, of course! NYC just has tricks all over the place to make you spend as much $$ as possible!

  6. nyx July 6, 2010 at 11:32 PM

    yep great tip, I also think gift cards are great to use during summer while you travel, hehe =)

  7. Curt July 7, 2010 at 12:07 AM

    There are actually accounts you can get where the bank will reimburse any ATM fees you rack up (I believe I have seen this both through Fidelity and Charles Schwab) – while not traditional banks, they definitely make it so you don’t even have to worry if there is a convenience store nearby.

  8. Halothane July 7, 2010 at 12:42 AM

    Charles Schwab Bank reimburses ALL fees charged at ATMs at the end of your monthly statement.

  9. Micki July 7, 2010 at 7:51 AM

    In addition, I would also recommend switching to banks that are more common to avoid ATM fees as well. Bank of America, Wachovia, etc are banks you will find everywhere! As for the local credit union, more than likely will not be in your vacation spot or when your somewhere unknown. Also,I have used that tip above regarding purchasing an item and getting money from your debit cards to avoid CRAZY fees from the ATM’s but YES, stay within less of the ATM fee you were about to pay. What do you mean? If the fee cost $2.50. Go a local store and pay for something less than $2.50 because you might as well pay $2.50 at the ATM if you go over. I love it!

  10. The Best Money Blog July 7, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    Shelly @ Coupon Teacher: It sometimes can be hard to remember, eventually it just becomes habit.

    Que: Same with us. The bank that has out main checking account is at least 5 miles from our house. There are about 10 around, but it’s like they decided that they’d stay out of a 2.5 mile radius of our house. :-/

    Carrie: Good idea. I don’t know if it would work for me since I eat about 3,500 calories a day though!

    Ace: Good point! That’s often where I’ll get my cash is at the grocery store. It saves you time and money.

    Sense: I’ve been there before, but never used an ATM, and I guess I was lucky.

    nyx: Gift cards can also be dangerous. They are basically an interest free loan at best, and if they often have terms that make spending the full amount on the card difficult so they end up being a waste of money.

    Curt and Halothane: Ally.com refunds all ATM fees as well. I have had a great experience with them thus far.

    Micki: True. I have family that uses local credit unions as their banks, but there is only one location in the world. I always ask them how they’d get money if they were traveling or something.

  11. Michele July 7, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    I hope everyone checks the policy at their bank. I bank with M&T and my “card” is a Visa check card. I can use it as debit or credit. In order to get cash back from a purchase I have to use the card as a debit card – and I get charged a fee to use the card as a debit card instead of a credit card.

    Be careful and familiar with your bank’s fee schedule.

  12. Donna Freedman July 7, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    This is how I get all my cash: at the drugstore or the Asian market two blocks away. I don’t like going to the ATM because I’m paranoid I’m going to get mugged or have my card compromised by a skimmer.
    However, I’d also like to note that my bank will notarize something for me for free. It’s something to ask about so you’ll be ready the next time. That is, assuming the bank was even open when the OP needed the service.

  13. Brad July 8, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    I use this to get around web only banks like ING, get $20 when I’m Wal-mart or Home Depot or wherever I happen to be at that time.

  14. Kelly July 15, 2010 at 12:52 AM


    In my town there IS no Bank of America or Wachovia ATM’s let alone a brick and mortar bank for either of those two companies. I think the closest ones to any place that I ever go are in Cleveland, Pittsburgh or Buffalo and those are two hours away from me. I have lots of little local banks.

  15. J. Money July 15, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    Oh man, I can’t stand large banks anyways. Bank of America is the worst. Took me 4 tries to cancel my account last month! Pros and cons w/ all places but jeez…

    I get free ATM withdrawals from USAA too, but if the point is to avoid going to the atm cuz I’m lazy, well, that’s another story ;) I try to take out $100 in cash every paycheck and live off that until the next one comes. This works about 75% of the time.