Finances & Money

Ways to Save Money #6: Avoid the ATM

This is part six of the Ways to Save Money Series

The 4th “Way to Save Money” was about paying with cash rather than card. Part of that method is to avoid going to the ATM more often than you need in order to avoid getting more money out than your budget allows for that month.

For example, a friend asks you to go to a movie. You’ve tapped out your entertainment budget for the month already, or you have a night out with your wife or another friend planned for later in the month. Rather than saying “Sure!” and running to the ATM (or using the money in your wallet and needing the ATM again later), you should be saying “No thank you”.

That’s what monitoring your spending is all about; Reigning in the unplanned expenses until you can have a high level of control over your money. Then, when you can handle an increase in a category, such as dining or entertainment, you can reward yourself with an upgrade to your budget. Budgeting isn’t meant to be depressing and overbearing. It’s YOU controlling YOUR OWN spending, not some other authority figure doing it for you.

But ATMs have another hidden danger, specifically if you’re using another bank’s machine: FEES. Most of you should already be well-aware of the fees involved with taking out your own money, but if you’re not, here’s a tip:

If you can avoid using a competitor’s ATM, then do so.

The reason? Many big banks are charging $3 per withdrawal, and that doesn’t even count the $1-2 or more that your own bank charges you per “foreign ATM withdrawal”. If you’re going to take out $10 for a movie or dinner or anything else, why would you pay $4-5 more in bank fees? That seems rather silly, doesn’t it?

That’s why I compiled a handy list of ways to save money when you need to get your money out of the bank. So if you decide to switch to paying all cash, or you just need some money for an emergency, consider the alternatives such as:

  1. Buy something from a grocery store and get money back on the purchase. A 25 cent pack of gum is a lower fee than $4-5, right?
  2. Plan ahead and get a larger amount of cash out from the bank directly or your own bank’s ATM. You’ll avoid multiple trips to the ATM if you plan accordingly.
  3. When all else fails, get a larger amount of cash out at the foreign ATM. That $5 fee is a lower percentage of a $100 withdrawal than on $10, and you’ll have made one less ATM stop for the future. But just remember to maintain control over your spending since you now have all that cash in your wallet or purse.

Do you have your own method of avoiding foreign ATM charges, other than using a credit/debit card? Any horror stories of even higher fees from your or the foreign bank?

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I hardly ever use the ATM. Sometimes I may get some cash back when I deposit a check in person, but other than that it’s pretty much all plastic.

    I also don’t like to budget categories, I just make sure to take the savings and investment money off the top at the beginning and then I’m forced to only spend what’s left. That’s just my approach.

  • We don’t use the ATM often, but our bank (USAA Savings Bank) completely reimburses all ATM fees, or the first 10 or something. I don’t think I’ve paid an ATM fee in over 10 years.

    We still try to avoid using the ATM though. Money in your pocket is very easy to burn when you’re being spontaneous.

  • I use a credit union in Seattle. Verity Credit Union will reimburse users of their Velocity Checking account up to $25 in ATM fees from other banks. This plus a (currently) 6.01% interest earned on deposits makes for a pretty sweet checking account. Let me know if you’re in Seattle and want me to refer you to Verity. You get $25 and I get $25 referral awards.

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