Your Money: Why You Need To Spend It To Get It

Going to the ATM can be a little bit like playing the slot machines, except you’re winning your own money. The insertion of your ATM card followed by a series of clinks and clunks and it spits cash out into your hand. Imagine the disappointment when you realize you’ve had to pay a surcharge to access that money. Sometimes those charges multiply. In 2023, the average ATM fee was $4.73. So, why are we paying for the privilege of taking out money that already belongs to us? The answer is twofold. If you’re going to an ATM that your bank considers “out of network” — meaning the machine is not affiliated with your bank — the private owner of that machine is looking to monetize it by collecting what’s known as an operator fee. There’s no incentive for them to offer a fee-free transaction, especially when it costs them money to rent and maintain their ATM footprint. Then there’s your bank, which might also charge a fee for using a machine outside their purview. One reason banks do this is to encourage loyalty. They would prefer you seek out their own locations for any and all transactions. The second source of fees is when banks charge a premium to use their own in-network ATMs. Sometimes that happens when you exceed a certain number of free transactions in a given month. Other times, it’s simply because the bank is in a fee frenzy, tacking on charges for everything from cash withdrawals to overdraft penalties. They’re out to make money, and transaction fees help their bottom line. If you’re bothered by ATM fees, the easiest thing to do is establish a relationship with a bank that provides transactions free. Make sure they have ATM locations that are conveniently located. Of course, that will mean switching banks, but if you find yourself accessing the ATM often, it could be worth the hassle.