3 Ways to Find Free ATMs

Avoid ATM Charges

Image by Ellen Chao © The Balance 2019 

It’s frustrating to pay ATM fees to get your own money. Not only do you pay fees to the ATM operator, but your bank may add charges as well. Those costs add up throughout the year, and that means you have less to spend on the things that matter. So, how do you find free ATMs that help you keep more in your bank account?

Start With Your Bank

The simplest solution is to visit your bank or credit union when you need to withdraw cash, although that’s not always the most convenient option.

Your bank’s ATM should be free for you to use, but customers from other banks most likely have to pay fees at the same machines. Whenever possible, plan ahead and withdraw cash that you’ll need for upcoming events while you’re at your bank. You’ll save money, and you’ll save a trip: There’s no need to get cash repeatedly (every few days) and pay foreign ATM fees.

Your bank might not have ATMs located where you need them, but there are several other ways to pull money out of ATMs for free.

If you can’t use your bank’s ATM, find out if your bank offers ATM fee rebates. Some banks refund any charges that ATM owners add to your withdrawal. Fee reimbursements are a standard feature on popular cash management accounts, and some local banks and credit unions also offer rebates.

CO-OP Network for Credit Union Members

If you belong to a credit union that's part of the CO-OP network, you have access to almost 30,000 free ATMs nationwide. Many of those ATMs are located at credit union branches, but you can also find them at retail outlets like Costco and 7-Eleven. In addition to free ATM access, credit unions often allow you to walk into a branch and work with a teller through “​shared branching.” If your credit union is part of the CO-OP Network (and you can find an office of another shared branching member), take advantage of that service.

To learn more, visit co-opcreditunions.org. There, you can search for ATMs nearby, as well as get free ATM locator apps.

Your Card’s Network

Most debit cards are part of an ATM network that allows you to make free withdrawals. Whether you bank with a megabank or a local institution, banks and credit unions often team up with card networks. Using an ATM for free is often just a matter of finding ATMs in the right network.

To find out which network your bank uses, just ask. Your bank’s app or website should also point you in the right direction with an “ATM Locator” or similar tool. If your bank is no help, check your debit or ATM card: On the back of the card, you should find logos for various card networks (or you might not, depending on your card). Those logos indicate which networks to search for in your area.

Several networks are listed below. If one of the names matches the logo on your card, head to their website for more details and to use their ATM search tool. Many of these sites also offer apps that can direct you to the nearest free ATM with GPS-enabled devices that track your location. Note that some networks also list stores that allow you to get cash in return for purchases. You can always make a small purchase if there’s something you need or if it’ll cost less than a nearby ATM.

Some of the major networks include:

Not free? As you use ATM locators, keep in mind that some of them may show ATMs will cost money to use. In some cases, the ATM is free (it won’t add a surcharge), but your bank will charge you for using a “foreign” ATM. To avoid foreign ATM charges, look for banks that allow you to withdraw anywhere, fee-free. Some online bank accounts, including Capital One 360, don’t charge foreign ATM fees.

Alternatives to the ATM

If you can’t find a free ATM nearby, there may be other ways to avoid charges, including going completely cashless.

Cash back: You might be able to get cash back from a store when you make a purchase with your debit card and use your PIN. Just be sure not to spend money on things you don’t need. With a little bit of planning, you can get the cash you need for the next few days while you stock up on food at the grocery store.

Pay with plastic: You have your debit card handy, so why not use it for spending instead of paying with cash? If you’re with a group, you can even pay for others’ expenses and have them repay you in cash (which saves you a trip to the ATM). Alternatively, everybody can pay their share with free P2P payment services.

Keep in mind that swiping your card everywhere you go may be riskier than using your card at ATMs. When you use your card, you expose your card information to a machine (which can be hacked). However, you generally have some protection as a consumer, and even bank ATMs can be compromised with skimming devices and hidden cameras.

Using a credit card is typically safer for everyday spending—just be sure to pay it off every month.