Taking out cash costs more than purchasing a venti flavored latte, thanks to that pesky ATM fee. The good news is nobody's paying those fees anymore—and neither should you. Here's how to avoid them.

By Meena Thiruvengadam
July 19, 2021
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In Atlanta, it costs more on average to withdraw cash from an ATM than it does to buy a venti pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks. At $5.60, Atlanta has the highest average ATM fees in the nation, according to data compiled by Bankrate.com, a site known for its interest rate comparison tools and personal finance calculators. Across the board, the average ATM withdrawal in the U.S. costs a combined $4.64 and comes with two fees—one from the ATM owner and another from your bank when using out-of-network machines. So instead of skipping those fancy coffees to save money, skip the ATM fees. There's just no reason to pay them anymore. 

More than a third of all checking accounts now include at least one fee-free withdrawal a week, meaning fewer people are paying ATM fees overall, says Greg McBride, senior vice president and chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com. Meanwhile ATM networks have grown, cash usage has shrunk, and people are making fewer overall ATM withdrawals than they used to, he adds.

Even when people do pull out cash, their withdrawals tend to be smaller—making ATM fees look even larger. "Five dollars on a $30 withdrawal feels different than $5 on a $100 withdrawal," McBride explains.

One way to avoid ATM fees? Use ATMs that are in your bank's network. Another option is to look for financial institutions that waive their fees regardless of where a customer makes a withdrawal. Some even reimburse customers for fees charged by external ATM owners, though dollar or transaction limits may apply. 

Eliminating even the cheapest average ATM fees in the nation—$4.11 in Chicago, according to Bankrate—is enough to splurge on that tall cinnamon dolce latte to enjoy while strolling along Lake Michigan. So. 

Consider these banks instead  

Axos and Lending Club are two online banks that don't charge their own fees on domestic ATM withdrawals. Both also reimburse fees from external ATM owners, though limits do apply on some types of accounts. As long as your account qualifies, just withdraw the cash you need and look for a statement credit equal to any ATM fees you've been charged at the end of the month. 

Citibank isn't quite as generous and won't reimburse you for fees charged by external ATM owners, but it does offer fee-free access to a huge network of more than 65,000 Citibank-branded ATMs. ATMs inside Target, Costco, CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid stores are among the places Citibank customers can withdraw cash without paying a fee. 

Check out credit unions 

USAA Federal Savings Bank is a San Antonio-based credit union serving military families. It offers service members, veterans, and their families up to 10 free withdrawals per month from a network of more than 60,000 ATMs. USAA also reimburses customers for up to $15 a month in fees charged by external ATM members. 

If you're a civilian, consider Alliant Credit Union. It offers no-fee access to more than 80,000 ATMs across the U.S. and reimburses customers up to $20 a month in external ATM fees. Anyone can join the Illinois credit union by making a donation to the Foster Care to Success charity. 

Ask for cash back 

If changing banks isn't an option, consider swiping your debit card instead of stopping at an ATM. Many businesses allow customers to request cash back on top of their retail transactions, so get $20 when buying groceries instead of paying $5 to withdraw that same cash from an ATM. Then buy yourself whatever coffee you want on the way home.