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ATMs are arguably the most convenient way to get cash, but if you’re not paying attention, that convenience can take a serious toll on your bank account. Unless you’re using a machine in your financial institution’s network, it costs an average of $4.52 to withdraw cash from an ATM, according to Bankrate’s latest report on U.S. checking accounts. That’s the highest the fee has been in the 18 years Bankrate has issued the report, and it’s a 4% increase from the average fee in 2014. (Bankrate researched 10 financial institutions in each of the 25 largest U.S. markets from July 9 to Aug. 5 to get this year’s figures.)
The $4.52 includes the fee charged by your bank for using an out-of-network machine and the fee charged by the ATM operator. Of course, you can avoid paying fees on withdrawals by using machines in your bank or credit union’s network, but that’s not always an option. If you do have to use an out-of-network ATM, it can be hard to know how much you’ll have to pay, because fees vary by ATM operator and location, so the best thing you can do is plan ahead and minimize how often you incur ATM fees.
Surprisingly, ATM fees are lower in San Francisco than in any other large city in the U.S. In this typically expensive city, you’ll pay an average of $3.85 per out-of-network ATM withdrawal — a penny cheaper than an ATM transaction in the much-less-expensive metro area of Cincinnati.
On the flip side, ATM fees in some cities average more than $5 per transaction. Here’s where it costs the most to access your cash:
Average ATM fee in 2015: $4.78
Average ATM fee: $4.84
Average ATM fee: $4.88
2. New York
Average ATM fee: $5.03
Average ATM fee: $5.15
It may not seem like much in the moment, but if you’re regularly racking up fees when you get cash, you could lose a lot of money to ATMs. There are times it may be worth the cost, but for the most part, you probably want to avoid paying to access your money and put that $4.52 (more or less) to better use. As an alternative, you can sometimes get small amounts of cash back when making debit card purchases at some retailers, but you have to buy something to tap that resource, and if you’re buying something you don’t need, that may be no better than paying a fee.
To minimize how much you pay in ATM fees, consider using your bank’s mobile app (if it has one) to locate ATMs you can use for free, or make a habit of carrying cash at all times, so you’re not forced to incur fees when you need cash and have no other option. There are other advantages to keeping cash, too, like avoiding debt, because you can’t spend what you don’t have.