What is an ATM Surcharge?

wiseGEEK Writer

An ATM surcharge is an extra charge levied by a bank for using its ATM machine. This could come from a bank with which a person is affiliated (the bank the issues the card). Alternately, it may come from a different bank or ATM machine that charges for use. The degree to which a person will pay ATM surcharge amounts may rest in part on agreement with the bank issuing the card.

A woman withdrawing cash from an ATM.
A woman withdrawing cash from an ATM.

Lots of banks don’t assess an ATM surcharge for use of an ATM issued by them. A person with a Bank of Fred card, for instance, wouldn’t have to pay fees at any of the Bank of Fred ATMs. Some banks do charge a fee per transaction, but so many banks do not do this that it is seldom the case that a mainstream bank will assess a charge for using the bank’s own ATMs. In certain cases, a bank will belong to a network of banks that all don’t charge each other, so it’s possible to use the card at many locations without paying an ATM surcharge.

An ATM may charge users a fee for its use.
An ATM may charge users a fee for its use.

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A bank may not belong to any networks, on the other hand, and this would mean that each time a person used his card at an unrelated bank, he would likely pay an ATM surcharge. The amount charged is typically displayed on the ATM screen so a person will know how much he is paying to remove money. In some instances, a person’s local bank will actually remove these charges, though this is less common. Most of the time people are stuck with a small ATM surcharge and pay it at point of cash removal.

The worst scenario tends to occur when a person’s own bank or other financial institution levies a fee for each ATM transaction and additionally allows any other bank ATM machine to charge a fee too. Suddenly, it might cost $4-5 US Dollars (USD) to remove $20 USD. This is a significant ATM surcharge, and can be quite costly if money must be withdrawn frequently.

There are some ways to pay the smallest amount of ATM surcharges. This begins by looking for banks that charge no surcharge, and that may have programs allowing free access to ATM machines of other banks. Alternately, choosing a bank with lots of accessible ATMs is useful. Whenever possible, withdraw cash from personal bank ATMs or accepted affiliates.

If people are going to be stuck paying an ATM surcharge at other banks, they should consider withdrawing money from a grocery store instead. Usually, purchases with cash back do not have a charge, and many grocery stores will allow people to withdraw quite a bit of cash. For small cash withdrawals, a shopper might buy a candy bar, a bottle of water, or an interesting magazine while pulling out money at no charge. This is an easy way to avoid paying fees.

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Discussion Comments

EliseP

An atm surcharge is basically a fee for withdrawing money from an atm that is not with your bank.

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