A pack of gum a day keeps ATM fees away


Do you find yourself a bit disgusted by the amount you spend on ATM fees every month? I know I can't stand to pay $2-$3 just to get to my money, but I'm a huge cheapskate. I'll assume you're as upset by wasting even $10 a month, $120 a year, to withdraw money for expenses that can only be paid in cash, so I'll let you in on my favorite way to avoid ATM fees.

If you bank at a large institution like Chase or Bank of America, you may not feel the need to avoid ATM fees as someone like myself who banks at a local credit union. While there are in-network ATMs that I can visit, I've found a simpler way to get my money without trying to remember which acronym means I don't have to pay a fee.

The trick isn't adding no fee ATMs to your cell phone, nor is it to make sure you're carrying enough cash -- it's to know how late your local Rite Aid, CVS or WalMart is open.

Any purchase made with your debit card at these and many other locations make you eligible for cash back for no additional fee. Since I rarely carry cash and my barber only trades a trim for greenbacks, I make it a point to stop at the Rite Aid next door for a pack of gum and $10 in cash before I get a haircut. I make sure that I'm getting a pack of gum with xylitol so that I'm also preventing cavities and an extra trip to the dentist.

Last month when I was heading out of town on a business trip, I stopped at a supposed in-network ATM and found out I was going to get hit with a $2.50 fee to get my money. So I passed and stopped at WalMart on my way to the conference. I picked up a $1, two-liter of diet coke and got $40 in cash back for no additional charge. When I checked in I dropped my two-liter in a bucket of ice and avoided the $2 diet cokes served in the lounge!

Avoiding ATM fees is simple and cheap to do. But beware! Most gas stations and smaller stores don't offer cash back, or if they do, require a minimum purchase or additional fee.

How do you avoid ATM fees?