I am middle aged and have never used an ATM. Never wanted to, never felt the need to hit the magic machine that, for a few coded numbers, will hand me my hard-earned money any time I want it. I’m not bashing bank technology; there are times when those extra dollars at two in the morning was necessary, and a credit or debit card was not going to help. So why have I not taken the plunge and signed up with my bank for 24/7 access to my own money?
Here’s why I avoid ATMs like the plague.
ATM stands for Automated Teller Machine, but I also think it stands for All That Money. As in, All That Money is Available, it’s There and it’s Mine.
Here is why I avoid ATMS – and maybe you should too.
- Sometimes too easy access equals too easy spending. It’s simple to drive up, withdraw the cash, and go on your merry way, without remembering to subtract the amount from your account. And keep doing it, until the day you’re overdrawn.
- Fees add up, especially if you hit ATMs out of your bank’s network. These are called “cheating fees,” and they cost you anywhere from forty-five cents up to five dollars. U.S. consumers had six billion ATM transactions in 2009 alone (the most recent year for which statistics are available), according to a 2012 report from the U.S. General Accounting Office. Banks have this information, realize it’s a source of revenue, and keep charging.
- But on a basic, everyday level: chronic use of the ATM may be a signal that your budgeting and money-saving methods need an overhaul.
How do you keep ATMs runs reasonable?
- Learn to budget realistically. We all want to save, but it’s like a too-strict diet. If you put too much money in the bank, and don’t leave yourself enough spending money until your next paycheck, you keep running to the bank “fridge” for a little bit of a money “snack” to tide you over. Pay yourself for the week, and divide your money into envelopes, with each labeled according to need and keep one envelope for wants. If you give yourself the treat at the start, you’ll be less likely to sneak out more money later.
- Know your bank: what other banks and ATMs are in their network? What are the fees? Is there a minimum amount you must have in your account in order to access free ATM service? If you don’t know the fees your bank charges, look at your statements. If you cannot figure it out, call the bank. If you cannot get a straight answer, find another bank.
- If you travel abroad, check with your bank to find out what ATM services are available in the places you visit. Foreign ATM fees are typically a flat rate, usually from $1 to $6. You tend to spend more on vacation because it is vacation, which often means more trips to the machine.
- Instead of doing the ATM dash, learn to use a credit card wisely, especially a reward card, which pays you back in cash or points you use for consumer goods, hotel stays, car rentals or airline tickets. Using a credit card – and paying the balance off in full, every month – is not only safer than a 2 a.m. trip to the ATM, it gives you a record of what you spend.
A prepaid debit card may help curb spending more than ATM access.
- Consider using a prepaid debit card, loaded with a set amount of cash, for your wants and splurges. Instead of accessing the ATM, you can pull out the card, pay for your purchase and track your balance online using your computer or smartphone. When you fun money’s gone, you have to wait until your next paycheck.
- Some debit card issuers, such as Green Dot, even offer a smartphone app that lets you know when the card balance is low. The card can be tied to your checking account, and you decide how and when to add money to the card. It’s safer than carrying a lot of cash, and knowing exactly what’s on the card can keep those fees out of the bank’s hands and in your wallet.