At dinner last night, the conversation for some reason turned towards personal bank accounts and the banks that hold them. Bank of America has grown to a large presence in this area, and there were some complaints about their service. In particular, their fees are higher than other banks in some cases. Some at the dinner table have had difficulty with having BOA customer service representatives reverse fees, while other banks seem to be more willing to credit the customer when they call to ask.
This morning, the first news story I noticed was an item about Bank of American raising their ATM fees from $1 or $2 to $3. This is the fee the bank charges non-customers for using bank-owned cash machines.
There are a few ways to get around ATM fees.
- Sign up for a bank account that refunds other banks ATM fees. Notably, USAA offers free ATM use anywhere and refunds fees charged by other banks (up to a limit).
- Have a bank account at a bank that has plentiful cash machines in your area. I use Wachovia for my primary checking account and I can almost always find an ATM without driving out of my way.
- Keep a minimum amount of cash at various banks. This would add more work with more bank statements and more information to keep track of. I try to stick with as few brick and mortar accounts as possible.
- Make the ATM use worthwhile. If you have to take out cash somewhere and pay a fee, take more out. A $2 fee for $20 is an immediate loss of 10%, a bad investment. A $2 fee for $200 is only a 1% loss, which is more attractive.
- Use cash sparingly. If you never have to take cash out because you pay for everything by credit card, not only do you get a statement with all of your expenditures outlined, but you avoid unnecessary fees (as long as you pay the card’s balance in full every month).
How do you avoid ATM fees?
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published September 13, 2007.