Resist the ATM! Here’s how.

Your ATM card is a tool, just like a credit card — or a hammer. The powers of all three can be used for good, or they can land you (or maybe just your thumb, sometimes) in a world of hurt.

That’s the topic of my current post at my other day job, the Get Rich Slowly personal finance site. “Five ways to outwit the ATM” takes on the flies in the financial ointment:

  • For people with poor impulse control, “easy access” means the ability to satisfy every fleeting whim
  • For others, it’s frustrating (and a potential budget-buster) to have that $40 withdrawal just sort of vanish during the day
  • Banks are raising ATM fees

Note: I’m not saying you should never use an ATM card. I use one myself sometimes. But I use it in a very purposeful way, because underneath this intentional-living facade is a case of bower-bird syndrome just waiting to happen. (“Oooh! Pretty! Shiny! Want one!”)

Give it a read, won’t you? I’d appreciate your feedback.

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  1. Ro in San Diego

    Here’s how we have “outwitted” the ATM. My son is a very mobile kind of guy being 22 and getting ready to start his 5th year of college as a graduate student (not that I’m proud or anything).

    Anyhoo, he was spending quite a bit on ATM fees. He switched to a financial institution that will rebate all of his ATM fees – there may be a limit but my son hasn’t reached it yet. Here’s a plug – and I’m not getting paid to say so.

    USAA Credit Union. I’m not sure if everyone qualifies to join up but it’s worth looking into. We’ve been very happy with them and my son has saved hundreds of dollars in ATM fees since he’s joined up.

    He needs that money to support himself!

  2. Donna, I think that is a great article. I almost never go to the ATM, preferring to use my cc which is paid off in full each month.

  3. Great article. You really do bring up some good points. I know I was once guilty of needing 25 taking out 40 and spending the extra on impulse buys that I really didn’t need. Now with the atm fees and learning to use a budget, if I need that extra cash I use the cash back option at stores after buying an item we need for the house anyway.

  4. christy

    I have never had an atm card, nor do I have a debit card. I pay cash for almost everything, I have a credif card for emergencies or if a purchase would leave me no cash, I pay off the card monthly and still rack up award points. I pay a lot of my bills online, but still write checks for some things. I also buy gas at the same place, so they just wave to me and let me pay for my gas after I have pumped (always in cash) I see this as a luxery, so many places make you prepay at the pump

  5. Masha

    I use the no-fee ATM at work to take out cash from my work-associated credit union. That way I don’t find myself buying things I don’t need just to get the cash back.

    I pay all my bills directly online from the same credit union, which will also write and mail checks for me at no charge (saves stamps and envelopes), so I just need a predetermined amount of cash for “walking-around money” for groceries, haircuts, etc.

    Same credit union charges the usual 1.5% currency conversion fees for withdrawals in other countries, but no ATM fees. Most (perhaps all) UK banks don’t charge ATM fees, so when I am visiting my family in the UK I get a pretty good deal taking cash out of my account at the nearby Barclays’s branch and not paying the transaction or conversion fees that would apply if I used my credit cards for purchases.

    My credit union also offers fee-free withdrawals from ATMs at 7-11 stores, but I have never needed to use that feature.

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