#WealthWednesday: Don’t Get Overcharged on ATM Fees

Here’s a number that should make you rethink how you use ATMs: $438 million. That’s how much the top U.S. banks collected in ATM fees just in the first quarter of 2015, with fees averaging over $4 per out-of-network transaction. What does this mean? It means banks are making a killing on bank fees, and consumers are shrugging their shoulders and letting it happen. But you don’t have to. With a few simple strategies, you can avoid ATM fees completely.

Size matters, but not how you might think.

The conventional wisdom is to choose a bank with a large footprint: more branches should mean easier access to your money without fees. However, the banks with the most branches in the US actually top the charts in total ATM fees collected. More important is the number of fee-free ATMs available in your network. Chime members with direct deposit can access an ATM network with over 24,000 fee-free ATMs1 across the US–larger than any single bank. Obviously, we think Chime is great, but we’re not alone: consumers today have multiple options for large fee-free ATM networks.

Got a mobile phone? Use it.

People often use out-of-network ATMs simply because they don’t know where to find the closest in-network ATM. Nearly all banks have mobile apps and/or online ATM locators. There’s often an in-network ATM closer than you think, sometimes tucked away in grocery stores and shopping centers. You can find the closest Chime network ATM with our online ATM locator.

Add one more thing to your grocery list.

One of the easiest sources of fee-free cash? Grocery stores or larger retailers. Most of the time, cash back at checkout is free. So don’t forget to take advantage of this when you’re getting your groceries. Broccoli: check. Almond milk: check. Cash: check.

Don’t use cash.

Do you really need to use cash as much as you do? Probably not. Cash-only businesses are getting rarer, while options to pay with cards, mobile apps, and more are rapidly on the rise. Some people use cash as a way of managing their spending habits, but by using your Chime card you get more visibility and control, without having to keep receipts. The Chime app tells you your balance at a glance, and you’ll get an instant notification to confirm a transaction anytime you use your card. Plus you can always view your transaction history in the app or online to track your spending. Do the math on the cash you actually need each month–cash-only businesses, tips, small transactions–the number is surprisingly small.

1Effective June 15, 2015, fee-free transactions at MoneyPass ATMs are available for 30 calendar days following the posting of each direct deposit to the member’s account; otherwise, standard ATM transaction fees described in the Cardholder Agreement apply.

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