Sometimes you need cash. Immediately. And that might mean a trip to the ATM to pull money out of the bank.
But how do you deal with the fees? Your bank might charge a fee. The ATM operator might charge a fee. You could easily end up paying more than $6 in fees, depending on how high the ATM fees are. If you’re just getting a quick $20, that’s a 30% fee!
Before you just get money from any machine, consider using one of these best ATM locator apps to find an ATM near you--hopefully, one that’s free.
Start with Your Banks Mobile App
Your first step should be to look at your bank’s mobile app, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar area. Check to see if your mobile banking app includes a geo-locator to direct you to the closest fee-free ATM. Both Wells Fargo and Chase offer locators as part of their apps, and even some online banking apps (like Capital One 360) include locations of ATMs that are fee-free--or at least qualify you for fee refunds.
Find out what your bank’s policy is on surcharges and refunds from non-bank ATMs before you venture out. When you know that information, you can make better decisions about which ATMs to use when you need cash fast.
But what if your own bank is too far away? There are other mobile banking apps available to help you find ATMs as well.
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One of the best ATM locator apps is MasterCard Nearby, which allows you to search for more than two million ATMs in more than 200 countries. In some cases, you can find a map to the door of the ATM that meets your needs. You can set different filters, including the following:
- Name of your financial institution
- No surcharge
- No access fee
- 24-hour service
On top of helping you find ATMs, you can also get a list of retailers near you that allow you to get cash back with your purchase.
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Allpoint Mobile App
If you’re looking for an ATM in the largest network of surcharge-free ATMs, the Allpoint mobile app might be a good choice. You can find 55,000 participating ATMs all over the world, allowing you to withdraw cash without worrying about a specific surcharge. Check the back of your debit card to make sure that it belongs to the Allpoint network if you want to avoid fees.
Once you search by location, you can get a list of nearby participating ATMs, or even directions to the closest.
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MoneyPass Mobile App
Perhaps your debit card or bank is part of the MoneyPass network instead. If that’s the case, the MoneyPass mobile app can help you find nearby ATMs. Use your current location and you’ll be connected to Google Maps to help you navigate to the closest ATM.
There are more than 24,000 ATMs in the country on the MoneyPass network, and more than 1,600 institutions belong to the network. Check the back of your debit card to see if it’s part of the system.
CO-OP ATM/Shared Branch Locator
If you belong to a credit union, you can still access surcharge-free ATMs if your institution is part of the CO-OP network. You can access tens of thousands of ATMs around the world using your iPhone or Android device. As with the other ATM locator apps, all you need to do is use your current location or enter a ZIP code and the closest ATMs will pop up--along with an option to get directions.
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Use Your Mobile Internet Browser
In addition to the best ATM locator apps, you can also open the browser app on your mobile device to find surcharge-free ATMs. Both Visa and the Star Network have online ATM locator tools that can help you find information about nearby ATMs, including those that don’t have surcharges. However, these might not be as user-friendly when it comes to using your location or getting step-by-step directions.
Alternatives to Using the ATM for Cash
If you don’t want to take the time to find an ATM or run the risk that the closest ATM is going to charge you fees, consider the alternatives below.
Get Cash Back at the Store
One of the reasons MasterCard Nearby is one of the best ATM locator apps is due to the fact that you can find retailers that offer cash back.
But you might not need the app. Many convenience stores and other retailers give you a cash back option when you swipe your debit card. There are no fees when you get cash this way.
However, some retailers place a limit on the amount of cash back you can get. You might be limited to $40, $60, or $100 back when you go to a retailer. Plus, you have to spend the time looking for a low-cost item to purchase. Still, if you spend $2.00 on a bottle of water to get $60 back, that’s still better than paying an ATM surcharge.
Use Your Card and Collect From Your Friends
Another option, especially if you’re out with friends, is to offer to use your card and collect cash from your friends. You swipe your card and cover the cost, and everyone else gives you cash. You avoid a trip to the ATM and still get the cash you want.
On top of that, you might be using a rewards credit card or debit card. With a rewards card, not only do you get the cash back from your friends but can also earn points to be used in other ways. It’s a great way to benefit from swiping while still getting a little cash as a benefit.
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P2P Payment Services
Maybe you don’t actually need cash in hand. There are plenty of P2P payment services that allow you to send money to others without paying a fee. Zelle is an example of a P2P app used by a number of banks.
You can also use an app like Venmo to send money to friends--or receive money from friends. An increasing number of service providers are also using Venmo. They can receive payments from you that can then be transferred to their bank for a very small fee, costing you nothing. Plus, service providers appreciate that they don’t have to pay the merchant and transaction fees that come when you pay with a credit card.
It’s even possible to send money through social media apps like Facebook Messenger and Snapchat. With these types of payment services, you can have a fee-free payment experience without the fees that come with getting cash from an ATM.
Bottom Line - Pay Your Way
Thanks to technology, you have multiple options when it comes to paying. In fact, with the ability to keep a digital wallet on your phone, you might not need to carry cash or plastic in the near future.
As you consider the best (and most convenient) way for you to pay in various situations, it’s nice to be prepared. Understand your options so you can make the most of your money--whether you use cash, a card, or your phone.