How to find a fee-free ATM

Woman using an ATMImage: Woman using an ATM

In a Nutshell

You can avoid out-of-network ATM charges by finding free ATMs — start by looking for in-network ATMs near you. Failing that, you could try to get cash back by paying with your debit card or ask for a loan from family or friends.
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On average, it costs more than $4.50 to use an out-of-network ATM.

And that’s not counting any foreign transaction fees or international ATM withdrawal fees that you may encounter abroad.

Whether you pay any ATM fees depends on whether you use an ATM within your bank’s network or an out-of-network ATM. In-network ATMs are generally free to use.

If you use an out-of-network ATM, though, you could be hit with not one, but two fees. There could be an out-of-network ATM fee that’s charged by your bank and the ATM’s owner or just by the ATM’s owner. Luckily, if you have a smartphone, it’s fairly easy to find free ATMs even when you’re on the go.

Here’s how.



Go to one of your bank’s locations

If your bank has a physical branch that you can go to, it’s a safe bet that the ATM there will be free to use since most financial institutions own or operate the ATMs within their physical branches.

This is one reason that choosing a bank with a lot of branch locations has an advantage. But even if you bank online or travel outside of your bank’s service area, there are still lots of ways to find free ATMs. It’ll just take a bit of (easy) detective work.

Use the free ATM finder on your bank’s website or app

If you like getting cash on the go and don’t want to (or can’t) visit your bank directly, make sure you download your bank’s app or check out its website. Most banks have an option to find free ATMs near you, but you might need to do some digging to find it.

Doing this in advance — before you’re out and about — can be a good idea. That way you know exactly where to go to find the free ATM locator, and you’re not stumbling around a website that you’re not familiar with to try and find a free ATM.

Check to see if your financial institution has a deal with a surcharge-free ATM network

Some financial institutions have deals with no-fee ATM networks that allow their customers to use the ATMs without incurring fees. Find out if your bank or credit union gives you access by contacting your financial institution. Some surcharge-free ATM networks also maintain a list of participating issuers on their sites. Also, sometimes your debit card will have the logo of fee-free ATM networks printed on it.

Below, we’ve included links to some ATM network locator pages.

Surcharge-free ATM network Number of ATMs
Allpoint 55,000 worldwide
MoneyPass More than 37,000 nationwide
Plus Alliance Network (must select check box for Plus Alliance ATMs before searching) Thousands nationwide
PULSE Select (must switch on surcharge-free option before searching) 32,000 nationwide
SUM Thousands nationwide
TransFund Thousands nationwide
 

Find a CO-OP Network ATM if you bank with a credit union

If you bank with a credit union, it might seem like your options for finding a free ATM are rather limited at first since most credit unions are small, local organizations. But the opposite is actually true: Many credit unions participate in the CO-OP Network, which provides access to 30,000 free ATMs across the country.

If your credit union participates in the CO-OP Network, you can see if there’s a free ATM near you through the CO-OP ATM Finder website, or your credit union may have the info on its app or website.

Open a checking account that waives or reimburses ATM fees

Some financial institutions offer ATM-fee reimbursements if you’re charged an ATM surcharge fee. This is about the closest thing you can get to true ATM-fee freedom — but even then, there are still usually limits in place. Banks generally only reimburse a certain dollar amount of fees, and they have different timelines for crediting it back to your account. 

For example, Ally Bank offers reimbursements for the first $10 in ATM surcharge fees every month, and you get that money at the end of the month. Alliant Credit Union, on the other hand, reimburses up to $20 in ATM surcharge fees, and it’s credited to your account by the next business day.

Some financial institutions go a step further and offer unlimited ATM surcharge fee waivers. For example, members of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards Program who have reached the Platinum Honors tier can visit as many out-of-network ATMs as they want with no non-network fees or ATM surcharge fees.

Charles Schwab Bank’s High-Yield Investor Checking account effectively has no ATM fees — the account comes with unlimited ATM fee rebates on cash withdrawals when using the account debit card.

Alternatives to ATMs

If you’re not able to withdraw money from an ATM or you’re too worried about navigating a maze of fees, no worries. It’s still possible to get cash without visiting an ATM.

  • Get cash when you pay with your debit card — Some of the big nationwide chains like Costco, CVS, Rite Aid and Walmart let you get cash back when you use your debit card to make a purchase. The amount you can get may be limited, though, and you’ll still have to use your card to buy something in order to get that cash.
  • Pay with your card — Unless you have a specific reason to pay cash, you can always just swipe your credit or debit card if the merchant accepts it. But keep in mind that that with credit cards, merchants may require a minimum purchase of up to $10. With debit cards, Visa and Mastercard don’t allow purchase minimums.  
  • Pay with your phone — You can send money to people with phone apps like Cash App, PayPal, Venmo or another tool.
  • Borrow from family or friends — Consider asking a friend or family member if they’ll lend you some cash.

What’s next?

Finding a free ATM should be fairly simple as long as you remember a few rules: Stick with in-network ATMs and know how to find them, or at least opt for a checking account that waives ATM fees. Aside from that, it’s always a good idea to keep a little cash on hand in case you run into a snag, like needing a ride home or getting a bite to eat.

Make sure you’re also aware of any overdraft fees, which are charged when you spend more than you have in your account. You can still be charged these fees even if you use an ATM. Using your bank’s mobile app can help you stay on top of your bank balance, and it’ll help you find free ATMs too.



About the author: Lindsay VanSomeren is a freelance writer living in Kirkland, Washington. She has been a professional dogsled racer, a wildlife researcher, and a participant in the National Spelling Bee.… Read more.