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Four ways to avoid needless ATM fees

The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK -- You'd never consider donating $300 of your annual income to a bank, would you? If you're withdrawing cash from an ATM twice a week that could be just what you're doing.

Cash machines are convenient, but the fees they charge cost Americans more than $4 billion a year, reports You pay an average $1.64 per transaction every time you withdraw money from an ATM owned by a bank where you don't hold an account. Tack on the average $1.25 your own bank charges for each withdrawal and you're looking at fees of about $300 a year.

Here are four ways to sidestep surcharges:

Take out larger amounts of money: Avoid extra fees by withdrawing one lump sum to cover your weekly expenses. This can also help you stay on budget. Once you've made your way through the week's cash, you'll know it's time to stop spending.

Make a point of "point-of-sale" transactions: Don't overlook the opportunity to get cash back at your local grocery store or pharmacy. It generally costs far less than visiting an "off-network" ATM.

Avoid abusing out-of-town ATMs: Debit cards make it tempting to use ATMs when you're away from home, but this can cost you a bundle. When traveling, plan on using checks and credit cards instead.

Consider credit unions: To stay competitive with national banks, many credit unions offer lower transaction fees.

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