An ATM is a computer terminal which lets you access your bank account and withdraw money using an ATM card, debit card or credit card. Atexactly 3.370 inches by 2.125, your plastic ATM-friendly cards come in every color, their issuer's name and logo predominantly displayed above an International Organization for Standardization-compliant account number. Slip one into any ATM, and you can view your account balance, make a deposit or withdrawal, transfer funds, make payments or even withdraw foreign currency while traveling. Stick your card into the wrong ATM, however, and even a simple balance inquiry can cost you multiple dollars multiple times. Get.com wants you to know how to use those convenient ATMs that are available everywhere to your advantage.

In this guide to using ATMs:
What Are The Main U.S. ATM Networks?
What's The Difference Between Using A Cash, Debit Or Credit Card?
What Fees Do I Pay To Use My Card?
Are There Any Global ATM Networks?

  1. What Are The Main U.S. ATM Networks?

    Most banks charge you a fee when you use your card at an out-of-network ATM. That's why it's always a good idea to stick to using ATMs within your bank's ATM network. Most banks won't charge you a fee when you withdraw money at an ATMs that they operate. These will usually be branded with the banks logo or name, and are easy to recognize.

    Chase has around 15,500 ATMs across the country, and Bank of America also operates one of the largest ATM networks in the United States. Citi customers can access more than 28,000 fee–free ATMs, including 3,200 ATMs in over 1,000 Citibank branches, 6,000 7-Eleven® stores nationwide (you can draw cash at participating 7-Eleven's), and many more.

    While card issuers list their names on their cards' face sides, the back usually carries a logo denoting the ATM network where you can use your cards. All have websites and phone apps so that you can find one of their in-network machines wherever you are:

    • MasterCard/Cirrus. You can use you Cirrus branded card at any ATM in MasterCard's Cirrus ATM network. But since the ATM's are not operated by MasterCard but rather by banks or other ATM operators, you will still have to pay bank fees if you use an ATM that isn't in your bank's ATM network.
    • VISA/Plus. This network lets you use you Visa branded card at ATM's worldwide. However, Visa does not actually operate most of the ATM's in this network, so make sure you only use ATM's within your bank's ATM network to avoid high ATM fees.
    • Armed Forces Financial Network. This network operates ATM and POS terminals at or near U.S. military bases around the world.
    • STAR. This ATM network includes the Alert, BankMate, Cactus, Cash Station, Explore, HONOR, Money Access Center (MAC), MOST and Via ATM networks If your card issuer participates in one of these ATM networks, you can use your card to make surcharge-free withdrawals at any ATM in the STAR network.
    • Allpoint. This ATM network is used by a number of credit unions and has a partnership with STAR. If you have a Discover card you can also access cash at Allpoint ATM's on a surcharge free basis (a cash advance fee will apply if you use a credit card).
    • SUM. This ATM network lets you access your money at any SUM® ATM without paying a surcharge. This network has hundreds of bank and credit union partners throughout the U.S.
    • PULSE. Discover Financial Services operates the PULSE ATM network, with ATMs across the country. Discover also runs the TYME network.
    • CO-OP Financial Services. This network primarily operates ATMs for credit unions and at overseas U.S. Navy bases.
    • MoneyPass®. This ATM network is owned by U.S. Bank and also has a partnership with Citi. Discover debit cards and some cards issued by American Express can also be used on the MoneyPass network. In all, around 1,600 U.S. financial institutions are MoneyPass partners. This network includes over 24,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide, with many located in Walmart stores.
    • Presto! – Publix Super Markets' ATM network.
  2. What's The Difference Between Using A Cash, Debit Or Credit Card?

    The plastic may all look the same, but programmed within each stripe or chip are functions – what the card is and isn't allowed to do. The functions vary, depending on whether you have a cash, debit or credit card.

    Cash cards:

    • Require a PIN – personal identification number.
    • Are exclusively for withdrawing cash from an ATM network.
    • Don't allow users to purchase goods or services.
    • Immediately withdraw funds from the linked account.
    • Will decline transactions for insufficient funds.

    Debit cards:

    • May require a PIN or signature.
    • Allow users to withdraw cash at ATMs or get cash back as part of a purchase transaction.
    • Allow users to make purchases in person, over the telephone or online; online purchases may require the security code on the back.
    • Immediately withdraw funds from the linked savings or checking account.
    • May decline transactions for insufficient funds.
    • Usually have daily transaction and cash withdrawal limits.

    Credit cards:

    • May require a signature for purchases.
    • Allow users to withdraw cash from ATMs with a PIN.
    • Usually don't allow users to get cash back as part of a purchase transaction.
    • Have dual credit limits: an overall credit limit and a cash credit line.
    • Allow users to make purchases in person, over the telephone or online; online purchases may require the security code on the back.
    • Advances the money as a loan, which the card issuer will bill you for later. Because you aren't withdrawing your own money from your account, using a credit card to get cash is really like getting a cash loan. Most credit cards charge you a very high cash advance fee when you use your card to get cash at an ATM.
    • May decline a transaction due to unpaid balances or an exceeded credit limit.
  3. What Fees Do I Pay To Use My Card?

    Fees vary by financial institution and network, but these are the most common fees:

    • Debit card issuers may charge fees on PIN-secured rather than signature-secured purchases.
    • Debit card issuers may charge overdraft fees for insufficient funds.
    • Debit card issuers may charge foreign ATM fees for out-of-network ATM transactions – even if it's only a balance inquiry. These are typically around $2 each, but international transactions may be $5 or more.
    • Foreign, or out-of-network, ATMs may assign additional fees to your card for each transaction, often mirroring your network's foreign ATM fees to double them.
    • Financial institution monthly maintenance fees for some associated accounts may be as much as $25. Know your requirements to avoid them.
    • Credit card issuers charge cash advance transaction fees, usually a percentage or straight fee, whichever is more, for cash advances, transfers or use of their credit card checks.

    If your card charges a flat rate per transaction, then try to draw as much cash as you can in one go, to avoid paying more fees than necessary. Some debit cards charge no foreign transaction fees, which means you won't pay to convert your U.S. Dollars into a foreign currency. Some card issuers, such as First Republic Bank, even reimburse you for any ATM withdrawal fees that other banks (worldwide) might charge you when using their ATMs.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that many good travel credit cards do not charge a foreign transaction fee, and using these to pay wherever possible is a good money-saving alternative to withdrawing more cash than necessary at ATMs.

  4. Are There Any Global ATM Networks?

    Global ATM Alliance is one of the few international ATM networks. If you are a Bank of America ATM or Debit cardholder, you can use you card to withdraw funds from ATMs within the network to avoid paying a non-Bank of America usage fee ($5 per withdrawal) when you make a withdrawal, transfer money or make a balance inquiry. You also avoid paying the fee charged by the bank that operates the ATM (easily another $5 per transaction), although you will pay an international transaction fee of 3% for foreign currency transactions. This global network includes ATMs from these banks in the countries listed:

    • Bank of America (U.S.)
    • Barclay's (in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and the Channel Islands) ABSA (in South Africa)
    • BNP Paribas (in France)
    • BNL D'Italia (Italy)
    • Deutsche Bank (in Germany and Spain)
    • Scotiabank (in Canada)
    • Westpac Bank (Australia
    • UkrSibbank (Ukraine)

    So if you are a Bank of America account holder, you can save a lot of money by sticking to ATMs that are part of the Global ATM Alliance.

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