Maximize the Cash You Get From a Debit Card

Overcome ATM Limits and Daily Maximums

ATM Frustration
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Getting cash is usually as easy as finding the nearest ATM, but ATM owners and your bank limit how much you can withdraw. Daily limits often prevent you from withdrawing more than a few hundred dollars in any 24-hour period (a $300 to $500 limit is common).

Those limits are helpful for preventing large losses due to theft. They protect the bank as well as you personally. If unauthorized withdrawals go unnoticed for too long, you’ll be responsible for the charges, and the odds of recovering stolen cash are slim to none.

Fortunately, you may be able to get a temporary increase in your daily limit, or you can use a debit card cash advance to withdraw funds. We’ll discuss those strategies below.

Plenty of legitimate situations require $500 or more of cash: You might want to buy appliances or “toys” on Craigslist, or you might need to pay cash for a used automobile.

During banking hours, you can always walk into your bank and withdraw as much as you want from a teller. But what about weekends, evenings, and (numerous) other situations when that’s not an option? Plus, if you use an online-only bank, there are no bank branches for you.

Ask for a Raise

If you can plan ahead, call your bank and ask them to raise your ATM limit temporarily. As long as they’re convinced that you are who you say you are, they might be willing to bump your limit up as high as a few thousand dollars. You won’t always have success requesting an increase, but it’s worth a shot.

Also, ATMs limit the maximum withdrawal per transaction, so you may pay multiple ATM fees, and you might need to use several different machines.

Most ATM limit increases are temporary, but you might be able to get a permanent increase if you frequently need more than the maximum.

Cash Advances at Any Bank

Debit card advances: If you can’t visit a teller at your own bank, go to a different bank.

Ask about using your debit card to get a cash advance, which allows you to withdraw more cash than ATMs allow. Banks typically charge a modest fee for the service if you’re not a customer, so find out how much it costs before you pull the trigger.

Credit union customers: If you use a credit union, things should be even easier. Many credit unions participate in shared branching, which allows you to make free withdrawals from your account using other credit union branches nationwide. Different credit unions have different hours, so look for a location that’s open when you need it—on evenings or weekends, for example.

Cash advance limits: Debit card cash advances in branches still have limits, but they’re generally higher than limits at the ATM. Note that any withdrawals you already made at the ATM will probably also count against your daily in-branch limit.

Cash Back at the Store

You can also try to get cash back at grocery and convenience stores. The standard example is to buy a stick of gum and get as much cash as possible. Most stores limit cash back to relatively small amounts—you’re not going to get $1,000—but that amount combined with the maximum you can pull from the ATM might get you what you need.

If necessary, you can use multiple cash back transactions until you hit your debit card’s daily purchase limit—often several thousand dollars or more. However, you’ll probably need to visit several different stores, which is inconvenient.

Tips for Debit Card Cash Advances

This page describes cash advances you make with your debit card, but some of the same strategies might work with a credit card.

With a debit card, the funds come out of your checking account, so it’s essential that you have funds available for spending in your account.

Overdrawing your checking account can create serious problems. You run the risk of missing important payments that get automatically deducted from your account and bouncing checks. The consequences of overdrawing include penalty fees from your payees and overdraft charges from your bank.

Make sure to keep your account balanced, and only withdraw money that you can afford to withdraw.

Getting cash advances with your credit card might be another option, but it’s an expensive one. Typically you’ll pay hefty fees and higher interest on that money than you pay for standard credit card purchases. Plus, there’s no grace period to avoid interest charges.