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I've just gone to take some cash out of an ATM (Cash Machine) in Seattle. I visited about half a dozen in the end, and every single one wanted to charge me an extra fee (typically about $3) for the cash withdrawl on my (non-US) card. This was at bank ATMs in the centre of town, at their branches, rather than in a supermarket or somewhere.

In the end I had to give up and let one of them charge me (I needed cash!), but it was both unexpected and rather annoying. Having gone to the trouble of getting a card that wasn't going to charge me lots to use it abroad, I'm instead hit with fees from the owner of the cash machine.

Was I really unlucky to only find ATMs that wanted to charge me as a foreign user, or do all American ATMs do that? And if only some do, what banks should I be trying to find to avoid being hit with the fee?

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At JFK airport the cash machine didn't charge us...but everywhere else in NYC we were charged...! –  user6658 May 7 '13 at 14:52
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6 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted
  1. Try a credit union. Many of them boast surcharge-free ATMs. Lots of smaller banks don't collect surcharges either. Those that don't often will have a big sign saying so near the ATM. The Credit Union National Association, the Independent Community Bankers Association and The Co-Op Network all have ATM locators on their Web sites.

  2. Ask for cash-back when you use your ATM card at a grocery store. This service is free at many stores.

  3. If you're going through San Francisco, residents recently voted to ban ATM fees. So grab some cash while you're there ;)

  4. Bankrate's 2010 Checking Study found that 99.1 percent of ATMs charged a fee to noncustomers, a few ticks above the 98.7 percent that charged a fee last year. Of course this means there are still SOME out there!

  5. (From same survey) the average fee is $2.33. So at the least, try and beat that target ;)

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I also suggest withdrawing as much money as you can at once (without withdrawing more than you'll need), so you are hit with fewer fees. This is advice I follow religiously, as I use a US bank account, and withdraw money at Mexican ATMs--and have not found any with no fees! –  Flimzy Oct 31 '11 at 7:21
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+1 for the grocery store idea... but, when in america do as the americans do => use credit ;) –  rs79 Oct 31 '11 at 13:01
    
In the case of Mexico I think there is a tax or some other kind of government fee on ATMs which cannot be avoided. –  hippietrail Nov 3 '11 at 7:30
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These answers may change with time.

You may have to look for ATMs that don't charge you fee for withdrawing money but your bank may charge you nontheless. You should probably look for signs that state that there are no surcharge/fees on the ATMs but for example convinience store chain Wawa offers no surcharge ATM in their stores these are provided by PNC bank. And so on and so forth.

McDonalds had ATMs that charge $1 for withdrawals (that's a year old).

There is also a matter of cash network membership for the bank for example a friend of mine was able to withdraw fee free using a Master Card but another friend with a VISA wasn't able to do the same at the same ATM.

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There are some pairs of banks across the world which apparently have agreements not to charge each other's customers extra fees.

I work in tourism in Australia and some travellers tell me if they go to bank XYZ they can avoid fees.

As an Australian travelling overseas I am not so lucky.

But check with your bank in your country whether they are part of such a scheme and if you are lucky there will be one or two banks whose ATMs you can use free of fees.

(Oh and XYZ isn't the name of an actual bank, it's a stand in since I can't remember any of the banks they've mentioned.)

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Probably the global ATM alliance - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_ATM_Alliance and westpac.com.au/personal-banking/services/overseas-services/… explain more. –  Daniel Lo Nigro Oct 31 '11 at 9:54
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I would be very surprised if you managed to find an ATM that did not charge you a fee. US card holders are also charged fees if we use an ATM that is not the same bank as our card. Then we usually get a fee from both banks: the ATM's and our bank (for not using one of their ATMs). Some non-US banks that branches in the US; I think that would be the only possibility to avoid a fee.

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Some European airports provide ATM machines that will give you USD. Personally I have seen them in Frankfurt and Manchester. Just grab some dollars before going to the US and pay the rest with your credit card. Last time I went, I survived on $20 in cash.

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I thought that most of these issued USD, but charged you in EUR or GBP at their own exchange rate (which normally isn't very favourable)? –  Gagravarr Oct 31 '11 at 5:28
    
I only used it once, and then I didn't notice any difference. Then again, I only took $20 to have emergency cash, so their own exchange rate is still less then the excessive fee's some american banks ask. –  andra Oct 31 '11 at 8:08
    
Amsterdam has them as well, both before and after customs. @Gagravarr most I know will charge you the same rate as you'd be charged withdrawing foreign currency at an exchange desk for that same bank when using an ATM card, interbank rate+service fee for using a credit card, just like when withdrawing the local currency. –  jwenting Sep 13 '13 at 5:57
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Yeah, same story here, but i think i got only charged ~1.50 - $2 earlier this year (Arizona, Utah, Oregon, Idaho, Washington).

My strategy was to just take out fewer, larger amounts what would last me a week or so and pay with credit card for expenses > $50 like grocery shopping, gas stations, motels etc.

But ask yourself how much money you would really save if you waste 1h in traffic and burning gas, just to find a fee-free ATM and save $3.

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