Occasionally a “cash only” bar, restaurant or corner store will sneak up on you, forcing you to make the dreaded trip to the ATM. If you’re one of the smart ones, you always have some spare cash in your wallet. If you’re like me, then you totally forget and mutter curses all the way to the nearest ATM.

atm use image

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The worst is when you get there, and there’s a line. It’s usually a collection of the most irritated, stressed people within a 20-mile radius for the ATM use.

Using the nearest ATM means it will create an unnecessary toll on you wallet, since there are fees your bank and the bank you are using will charge you. Sure, the fees don’t seem to be that much, but they add up. There are also out-of-network fees that your bank will charge for using a different bank’s ATM.

The team at MyBankTracker thought it’d be fun to put together a list of things that everyone has thought at one time or another while standing in line at the ATM.

While its no secret that no sane person likes to stand in a line for anything, much less pulling out cash from the ATM, learn how avoid these ATM lines… forever!

1. Is that a card skimmer?

Thanks to MyBankTracker, I am always on the look out for card skimmers. This is one of the easiest ways for criminals to instantly access your information and unfortunately it happens all the time. Make sure you always go for the ATMs located inside the bank or in a place where there is 24-hour surveillance.

In general, I’d avoid those really fishy-looking ATM machines that have graffiti all over it in the back of a dark bodega.

2. Where’s my pepper spray?

Have you ever gotten cash out of those fish-bowl-like ATMs in the middle of the night? You know the ones that are inside a small glass enclosure? It’s terrifying when someone larger than you walks in. I always feel like I need to bring protection. Maybe I’m just overly paranoid, but I feel like I’ve seen too many black and white surveillance videos of people getting attacked at ATMs.

3. What are you doing?!

Often when there’s a long line, the unhappy, tightly-grouped crowd usually has their smartphones out pretending to be busy with something else, but really, they’re thinking, “What is that person at the ATM doing?!” Are they completing three or more transactions? Are they checking their balance (even though it can be done from their smartphone while waiting in line)?

4. What’s that smell?

No explanation needed.


Have you ever swiped your card only to be asked if you’re okay with paying the fee for using an out-of-network ATM? Is anyone ever okay with this?! Duh, No. You may have noticed that ATM fees have gone up recently. The average cost, including the penalty some banks add on, comes to a total of $4.35. By saying yes to these fees, you’re just throwing away money. I usually say a big, “NEVERMIND” and either write a friend a check, or walk a little further to find one my bank’s ATMs.

How to avoid ATM fees… for free!

Online banking is a great option for busy individuals who prefer not to stand in line for ATMs. Here’s why: You can virtually go to any bank to pull out cash, and you’ll never be charged a fee for it! (Be sure to check with the individual online bank. Some banks offer 100 percent fee reimbursement; other banks only offer reimbursement if you use certain types of ATM machines, like an AllPoint ATM.) This means if the closest bank to you is Chase and there’s a line, you can walk to the next block and pull out money from Wells Fargo, or Bank of America. Sky’s the limit!

Online banks also offer cheaper deals when it comes to maintaining your checking and savings account. Because these banks have such low overhead costs (no tellers or their own branded ATMs), they pass their savings onto their customers.

So, bye-bye nasty ATM fees! The majority of online banks offer their customers free transfers from other accounts, even if they’re with another bank.

Online banks, such as Ally and Bank of Internet, do not have monthly service fees associated with opening and maintaining an account. GE Capital has a monthly service fee of $5 which can be easily waived if you keep no less than $50 in your account — much less than traditional brick-and-mortar banks.

The fee I am charged for my personal bank account is only waived if I keep a minimum of $1,500 or an average daily balance of $5,000 or more in all of my accounts, or if I spend $25 in service fees. What a headache!

Hit up your local grocery store

I’ll do anything to avoid those nasty ATM fees (or just heading to the ATM in general). I haven’t quite made the leap to online banking yet, but one trick that I really enjoy doing is getting “cash back” when I shop at the grocery store. It’s probably not the best for my diet, because I am usually buying some salty snacks (READ: Chips). But I love this option because I feel like I am getting paid for bad dietary decisions, even though it’s just my money.

Keep in mind that retailers often have a limit on how much money you can pull out. If I want to go in just to pull out money I’ll buy a pack of really cheap gum and ask for $40 or $60 in cash back. There’s no fee associated with pulling money out this way.

So the next time you pass a bank and see a long line for the ATM, remember, there are ways to avoid it!

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  • highinterest

    Here’s a radical idea, at least one that’s radical for the younger generation–

    Estimate how much you’re going to spend on casual purchases during the week. Start the week with that much cash plus a small cushion.

    Yeah, I know that’s too much to handle for the millennial types, but I have confidence that they CAN do it. It’s called PLANNING.