At the ATM: 8 Ways to Minimize Fees and Maximize Security

Many depositors who need cash often turn to automated teller machines (ATMs) because of the convenience. But that convenience can come with costs. Here are 8 things to keep in mind at the ATM so that the cash coming out of your account goes into your pocket.

  1. Know which ATMs you can use for free. For many people, the availability and cost of ATMs are big reasons why they choose one bank over another. Generally, you can use your own financial institution’s ATMs without incurring fees.
  2. Consider ways to keep ATM fees down. If you anticipate needing cash for multiple reasons, withdrawing more money at one time (such as $100 or $200 instead of $20 or $40) can mean fewer trips to the ATM and savings on transaction fees. Using your debit card to get “cash back” from a merchant at checkout (such as a grocery store) for no fee is another option. While the amounts may seem small, reducing or eliminating ATM fees can result in significant savings over time.
  3. Guard against overdrafts, which can be costly. Overdrafts can occur if you withdraw more money than you have available in your account or if the new balance in your account won’t be enough to cover a future, pre-arranged withdrawal, such as a payment for a recurring utility bill. You can avoid overdrafts by keeping an up-to-date record of your account balance and the scheduled transactions to come.
  4. Keep personal safety in mind. ATM manufacturers and owners, including financial institutions, go to great lengths to prevent robberies and fraud at cash dispensing machine. But even so, you need to be careful. Be aware of your surroundings, particularly if there is anything suspicious, such as a broken light or someone loitering nearby. Have your card in your hand as you approach the ATM. And, if you withdraw cash, put it away promptly. The time for counting your money can come later in private.
  5. Walk away if you notice something suspicious at the machine. The FBI recommends inspecting the ATM for anything that looks unusual, such as scratches or tape near where your card would go. Those could indicate fraudulent recording devices have been attached to the ATM for “skimming” or gathering information from the magnetic strip on the back of the card. For similar purposes, fraudsters also use transparent overlays on ATM keypads that can record keystrokes and tiny cameras that are focused on where ATM users enter their personal identification numbers (PINs).
  6. Take precautions with your ATM cards. Know where your current cards are and keep them safe. Also make sure to destroy old or expired ATM cards. If your debit or ATM card falls into the wrong hands, someone could try to create a counterfeit or use the information on the card to fraudulently order a new one from your bank.
  7. Protect your PINs. Memorize your PIN and never write it on your ATM card or on a piece of paper in your wallet. Don’t share your PIN with anyone who isn’t a co-owner of the account. And, when you enter your PIN, block the keypad with your other hand.
  8. Immediately report a lost or stolen card or anything else that could be a warning sign of a problem. Promptly notify your bank if you misplace your card or if you spot an unauthorized ATM or debit card transaction on your account. The faster you report a problem, the greater your federal protections are under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.