ATM fees at an all-time high

Surprising No One, Bank Fees Are Higher Than Ever

Just realized you needed some cash? You’re about to pay $25 for that $20 bill.

ATM fees continue to climb to record highs for the 10th straight year, Bankrate says. Customers could see as much as $5 come out of their account just for using an out-of-network ATM.

“With ATM fees now at an average of $4.57, an unplanned stop at the ATM for $20 will cost nearly 23 percent in fee,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for  “A little advanced planning when making withdrawals can add up to big savings for consumers in the long run.”

And it’s not just the out-of-network bank that will charge you a fee; your own bank may actually penalize you for using a different bank as well. The combination of charges from both banks is nearly $5 in fees just for taking out cash.

Fees also vary by area. Among the highest average ATM fees, Phoenix and Atlanta both have more than $5 for out-of-network usage. San Francisco and Cincinnati are among the lowest, with less than $4.

The study covers other fees, too — and there’s some tiny good news there. Average overdraft fees shrunk, from $33.07 last year to $33.04 this year. Bankrate says the most common overdraft fee is $35.

Among the cities with the highest average overdraft fees are Philadelphia ($35.20) and Baltimore ($34.80). San Francisco was again lowest with an average of $30.35. And for the first time in seven years, banks offering free checking increased. This year, 38 percent of banks now offer free checking with no minimum balance requirements and without monthly fees.

How to avoid horrible bank fees

Bank fees remain crazy high. Last year alone, U.S. banks collected more than $34.1 billion in fees. That’s only from the three biggest banks in the country: JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.

Of course, meeting certain requirements to avoid fees has been going on for some time. For example, Bank of America will drop a monthly fee if you direct deposit at least $250 into your account every month.

Almost half of Americans say fees are the most important part of banking, and there are a few ways to avoid them if you know how your bank works.

Your bank’s mobile app could be a big help. Set up alerts to get notifications on your account balance, specifically when it gets below a certain amount. That way you can avoid “overdraft protection,” or that pesky fee that pops up when you take out more money than you have. Usually, the fee is much higher than the amount you took out in the first place.

If you need cash back and want to avoid that ever-increasing ATM fee, use your debit card at the grocery store and hit “cash back” where there isn’t a fee for usage. Even if you don’t need anything more than a pack of gum, it’s still more useful (and less expensive) than an ATM fee.

If you can’t stand your bank, find a new one! Try a regional or community bank if you don’t have to travel often. You could also try a credit union or online-only bank like Ally, Simple, or Sychrony. There are plenty of other options besides big banks! Don’t limit your banking options.

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