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Old Feb 10, 05, 12:04 pm   #1
 
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Share your best banks for avoiding ATM fees...

I'm sure this gets bashed every few months, but I thought I would bring it up again:

If you travel all over the world and use ATMs a lot, you get whacked for fees frequently. I've had a Wells Fargo (California) account for years and now that I use Microsoft Money to keep track of things, I was able to get some insight into what I knew existed, but didn't want to recognize: ATM fees/surcharges and how big they get.

Sooo... in the year 2004 I had nearly $400 in ATM fees. It seems you use an ATM and they ATM nicks you for a couple of dollars, and Wells knocks you back with a couple, too. God help you if you use an ATM in a Casino, I've seen surchages up to $8! Plus, Wells now gets you for using your ATM at POS terminals and grocery stores, too.

I don't have a small change college-checking type account at Wells, I have a checking/MMA with a pretty good amount of liquid in that savings, like $50k or so, so these charges aren't because my account is dipping below the $100 mark. I suspect that Bank of America is the same way.

I looked all over and ended up opening another checking account at First Republic Bank, who claims that with a $2500 balance, you never get any ATM fees, on either side, unlimited.

Lots of the banks I looked at either allowed a finite amount of foreign ATM usage, or the refunded THEIR fees, but not the foreign ATM, which kind of make sense. I think I became an expert at reading the fine print.

Sooo… I’ve been using this First Republic Bank ATM card all over the place and have been looking at the statements, and sure enough, they seem to be rebating all of the ATM fees. I’ll make a withdrawal out of some 7-11 type machine for $200 and it will come through as $202 on my statement ($200+$2 fee) and First Republic deposits the $2 back into my account. The card is also a Visa debit, so you can use it like traditional plastic, which I think everyone does now.

This would seem idea for the road warrior or really anyone who travels a lot and doesn’t want to deal with ATM fees.

The negatives:

- Limited locations (California, but even limited then, several branches in San Francisco).

- Limited “home” ATMs means that deposits have to be either mailed in, wire-transferred, direct deposit or you can actually use a network of “shared” ATM machines that allow you to make deposits into FRB even though they are owned by someone else. There is a link to a listing on their web site and they are sparse, only a few here in San Francisco, don't know about elsewhere.

- Online banking looks kind of rudimentary. Functional, but not nearly as polished as, say, Wells Fargo’s. Citibank has one that is really functional, lots of stuff you can do, but also looks pretty “basic” and navigating takes a little getting used to. E*Trade is, well, confusing, if you have it mixed in with a securities account.

- The whole dark-green motif looks a little tired compared to some of the other shiny ATM cards out there, but big deal.

I've only stepped in a branch twice - once to open the account, once to change my pin, so I can't speak much for the service, other than it was prompt and friendly.

Anyway, I don’t work for them or in any way have any sort of connection to them, other than I’m a new customer who is kicking the tires to see if they back up what they advertise, and they seem to, so I thought I’d share this with other road warriors.

I’d love to hear from anyone else who has stumbled along this path and see what they have found - I can't be the only one who groans over this!

--Doug

Last edited by DMSFCA; Feb 10, 05 at 12:15 pm.
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Old Feb 10, 05, 12:23 pm   #2
 
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Many Federal Credit Unions have low or no ATM fees for International ATM transactions.

I hold ATM cards at a couple well-known banks. However, the card I use almost exclusively for ATM transactions around the world is my Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union card... No ATM fees and straight % of that day's Interbank rate conversion of local currency to USD... You can withdraw any amount of local currency w/no fee whatsoever. LAPFCU membership is restricted to LAPD personnel and families & my wife is the primary account holder, so membership is limited. However, there are a number of FCUs in every state that offer similiar benefits with easy membership requirements.

Last edited by prspad; Feb 10, 05 at 1:06 pm. Reason: Add info...
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Old Feb 10, 05, 12:27 pm   #3
 
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I've used Nexity Bank for 4 years now and been happy with them - they rebate up to 4x$2 in ATM fees each month. They're an on-line only bank, so you'll be getting better interest rates on that $50k -- and it sounds like you don't have much use for branch locations anyway.
Downside: you can't make deposits at ATMs. You mail them into their home office -- but it's Business Reply, so you don't have to pay postage.
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Old Feb 10, 05, 12:30 pm   #4
 
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I spend most of my time in either Virginia or Southern California and have found that Bank of America best meets my domestic checking needs. There's a B of A ATM on practically every other street corner in both places so withdrawals are easy. One of the few annoyances at B of A, however, is that I can only make ATM deposits in California, where I opened the account---in other states I have to go to a teller for deposits. B of A's online banking is also top-notch; I especially like the online bill pay and the ability to make instant payments to my B of A credit card.

I used to bank with Wachovia but now have a whopping $1.21 in that account; it's a basic free checking account, so thank goodness no minimum balance requirement. The main reason I left? Wachovia doesn't clear deposits (even CASH deposits...it's ludicrous) nearly as fast as B of A does, and I inadvertently racked up $120 in overdraft fees last summer when the bank inexplicably put a large paycheck on "hold" for a week after I deposited it. B of A credits $100 in available funds immediately, and the rest usually becomes available within a single day.

B of A charges $5 for off-network ATM withdrawals in foreign countries, so when traveling abroad I transfer some cash over to my PayPal account and use the PayPal debit card (the card is free, with only a $1 ATM transaction fee).

One trick to avoid ATM fees if you're traveling domestically: Most grocery store chains allow you to take out up to $100 cash back with a debit card purchase, so what I do is buy a bottle of water for 99 cents, pay with my ATM card, and ask for cash back. Works wonderfully, unless your bank charges a fee for PIN-based transactions, which B of A and Wachovia do not.
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Old Feb 10, 05, 12:49 pm   #5
 
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$400/year in ATM fees a lot of ATM usage. Even if the avg. fee is $5/transaction, that's a trip to the ATM every 4.5 days. My first thought would be to cut down on your use of cash and no matter what to find use an ATM/debit card that doesn't charge for POS transactions.

Consider moving some banking over to a local credit union for which you are eligible, esp. if you make 50%+ of your annual ATM trips close to home and there is easy access to credit union ATMs.

Many credit unions are now part of various surcharge-free ATM networks (e.g. Alliance One) that are semi-nationwide, and many are part of the credit-union-service center (CUSC) program which lets you walk into other credit unions (nation wide) and make deposits/withdrawals. Depending on your travel destiations, Allilance One ATMs and CUSCs may be a great idea or a terrible one; coverage is spotty in some areas.

And as mentioned above, going into a grocery and buying a $0.99 drink while getting $100 cash off your ATM card is always a great plan. And many CU ATM cards have no fee for overseas transactions. I payed $1.50 in ATM fees last year total, and that was because I had a cash emergency in Boston at 1 in the morning and had to go to a Fleet ATM.

Some people are spooked by the concept of using a "no-name" credit union far from home, but I've had no issues. It's not like anyone writes checks anymore. In fact, my primary credit union is in OH and I just use Alliance One ATMs and the local CUSC here in IN. (I used to use the Purdue credit union but they got stupid and started charging $6/month for a checking account.)
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Old Feb 10, 05, 12:59 pm   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studentff
Consider moving some banking over to a local credit union for which you are eligible, esp. if you make 50%+ of your annual ATM trips close to home and there is easy access to credit union ATMs.

Many credit unions are now part of various surcharge-free ATM networks (e.g. Alliance One) that are semi-nationwide, and many are part of the credit-union-service center (CUSC) program which lets you walk into other credit unions (nation wide) and make deposits/withdrawals. Depending on your travel destiations, Allilance One ATMs and CUSCs may be a great idea or a terrible one; coverage is spotty in some areas.
Great tips, thank you. I do a lot of ATM usage because I was traveling a lot internationally and eventually learned where every ATM at every airport was located. :-) It was easier to just grab a handful of local currency rather than try to exchange USD (and better exchange, too).

I'm typically a big supporter of credit unions, and I have an account at Stanford federal credit union from school. They don't charge any ATM fees for foreign ATM machines, but they do let you eat the fee that a foreign machine takes - it: I'll have a charge for $202 on my statement, $200 cash, $2 for the foreign ATM's take, but nothing from SFCU. It still adds up.

Bankrate has a great site for looking up ATM fees by banks and accounts:

http://www.bankrate.com/brm/rate/atm_chk_home.asp
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Old Feb 10, 05, 1:06 pm   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DMSFCA
I don't have a small change college-checking type account at Wells, I have a checking/MMA with a pretty good amount of liquid in that savings, like $50k or so, so these charges aren't because my account is dipping below the $100 mark.

...

I’d love to hear from anyone else who has stumbled along this path and see what they have found - I can't be the only one who groans over this!

--Doug
With the kind of savings you have, why not open an asset management account. All ATM fees are waived and your 50k can get a much better rate of return than what a savings or checking account offers.
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Old Feb 10, 05, 1:18 pm   #8
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Washington Mutual does not charge non-customers for ATM use

Here are a few alternatives to consider. Washington Mutual, www.wamu.com, does not currently charge any fee for withdrawals made from their ATM's, even withdrawals made by non-customers. The problem is that many banks charge their customers a fee for using another bank's ATM's. But many online banks, even those that do not rebate ATM fees imposed by other banks, do not themselves charge a fee for any ATM usage. So if you have an account at one of those banks, and make your withdrawals at Washington Mutual ATM's, you will be fine.

If you have direct deposit, you can get a high-yield (3.0%) checking account at Presidential Bank, www.presidential.com. Presidential does not charge for ATM usage, but does not rebate ATM fees imposed by other banks. (Presidential does offer online banking, with free online bill-pay service.) If you do not have direct deposit, you can get a 2.50% money market account at MetLife Bank, www.metlifebank.com, and MetLife Bank will rebate up to $5.00/month in foreign (i.e., other bank) ATM fees.
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Old Feb 10, 05, 3:02 pm   #9
 
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USAA and E-Trade are two institutions that are known to rebate ATM fees charged by other banks. USAA will go up to $35/mo.
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Old Feb 10, 05, 3:04 pm   #10
 
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2 non-CA banks if you're OK with mailing in deposits:

Compass Bank (www.compassweb.com)

RBC Centura (www.rbccentura.com)

I think both offer free ATM usage (at least for several transactions per month) and free downloads into MS Money (where MS Money "pulls" the info down from the banks rather than your having to go to each website and "push" the info into Money).

Incidentially, although many banks advertise "free online banking," that is only if you do all of your online banking on their website. I have been using Money for years. Most banks have a monthly charge for connecting through Money or Quicken to download your tranactions into the software. Before I moved out of CA, I think WF had changed their policy and was charging fees for online banking with Money or Quicken (when I initially set up my account with them they were not). WaMu and BOA were indicating at that time that they were not charging for that service, as I had started looking for alternatives to WF. Thus, DMSFCA, you might want to double check to make sure the bank charges you are seeing are all ATM charges and not online banking charges.
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Old Feb 10, 05, 11:06 pm   #11
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Use credit union

Take a look at Keypoint CU (formerly known as AEA CU). They basically charge no fee for using any ATM, and refund the fee charged by the other bank.

Here is the link http://www.keypointcu.com/keypoint.c...2,29&pageid=27
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Old Feb 10, 05, 11:19 pm   #12
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mul
Take a look at Keypoint CU (formerly known as AEA CU). They basically charge no fee for using any ATM, and refund the fee charged by the other bank.

Here is the link http://www.keypointcu.com/keypoint.c...2,29&pageid=27
Man, I can only say American Bank ! (pcbanker.com)
Even ATM's abroad are free and one time I took cash in Paris and paid for dinner with my Amex that same night: the exchange rate AB gave me for cash was better!
They also give you 2% interest and free bill pay.
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Old Feb 11, 05, 3:40 pm   #13
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wahooflyer
I spend most of my time in either Virginia or Southern California and have found that Bank of America best meets my domestic checking needs. There's a B of A ATM on practically every other street corner in both places so withdrawals are easy. One of the few annoyances at B of A, however, is that I can only make ATM deposits in California, where I opened the account---in other states I have to go to a teller for deposits. B of A's online banking is also top-notch; I especially like the online bill pay and the ability to make instant payments to my B of A credit card.

I used to bank with Wachovia but now have a whopping $1.21 in that account; it's a basic free checking account, so thank goodness no minimum balance requirement. The main reason I left? Wachovia doesn't clear deposits (even CASH deposits...it's ludicrous) nearly as fast as B of A does, and I inadvertently racked up $120 in overdraft fees last summer when the bank inexplicably put a large paycheck on "hold" for a week after I deposited it. B of A credits $100 in available funds immediately, and the rest usually becomes available within a single day.

B of A charges $5 for off-network ATM withdrawals in foreign countries, so when traveling abroad I transfer some cash over to my PayPal account and use the PayPal debit card (the card is free, with only a $1 ATM transaction fee).

One trick to avoid ATM fees if you're traveling domestically: Most grocery store chains allow you to take out up to $100 cash back with a debit card purchase, so what I do is buy a bottle of water for 99 cents, pay with my ATM card, and ask for cash back. Works wonderfully, unless your bank charges a fee for PIN-based transactions, which B of A and Wachovia do not.
I have to second Bank of America. They are just about everywhere in the country; I split my time between Washington DC and South Florida and I couldn't be happier with them. Although they are a large company they do in fact provide quality customer service (unlike some certain airlines ). Another nice feature about BofA is that they have agreements with a number of banks oversees so that you can use their ATMs without any fees. This can save quite a bit of money over a long trip/
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Old Feb 11, 05, 4:02 pm   #14
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I use Citibank as a Citibank customer because I know where their ATMs already are in a dozen or so countries and in the cities I frequent.

Otherwise, I second the credit union or brokerage firm ATM advice.
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Old Feb 11, 05, 5:00 pm   #15
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guv1976
Washington Mutual does not currently charge any fee for withdrawals made from their ATM's, even withdrawals made by non-customers.
This is true, HOWEVER, they DO charge their customers a fee for withdrawing money from another bank's ATM, even outside of the U.S.A. For this reason, I opened an account at NetBank (through the partner link on United Airlines' website to get bonus mileage). NetBank does not charge a fee for using any bank's ATMs, domestic or international.

Last edited by whiteknuckles; Feb 11, 05 at 5:02 pm.
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