PICK A BETTER BANK! THE BEST NO-FEE ATM CARDS!

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When you use ATM machines, you quickly learn that banks like to take advantage of you when you are vulnerable. If you are in desperate need of cash, can’t find an ATM owned by your bank, and your account is at a typical institution, you get ripped off. Most banks set the rules to make sure that every ATM transaction pays off (for the bank) as much as possible. According to SNL Financial, the five largest banks in the United States, that is JP Morgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BAC), Citibank (C), Wells Fargo (WFC),  and US Bankcorp, together earn almost $300 million every single quarter from ATM fees alone!

Inside the USA, it is bad enough. If you are unable to locate a machine owned by your bank, you will pay dearly. Typically, you will get hit with an average of $1.70 from your own bank, and about $3.00 by the bank that owns the ATM, resulting in an average cost of $4.70 each time you use your card at a machine that isn’t owned by your bank.

If you need money when you are outside the USA, the situation gets worse. Not only will they ding you with usage fees, but they will force you to pay up to a 3% or higher so-called “currency conversion fee!” This is true even though your bank has no involvement in the currency conversion process. Currencies conversion is always handled by Visa and Mastercard, and the networks already charge a 1% fee for doing it. The fee charged by your bank is on top of that. It is an abusive fee that compensates them for doing nothing.

Will you continue to allow yourself to be a willing victim? If not, what can you do? The answer is simple. Choose not to be a victim by picking a better bank! It’s not easy to find them, but there are a few financial institutions that do not impose unfair fees and costs upon hapless customers.

Charles Schwab Bank

Charles Schwab offers a so-called “High-Yield” Investor checking account. Theoretically, the account is tied to a Schwab brokerage account, but there is no obligation to fund the brokerage account. Schwab allows its customers to use ATM cards anywhere in the world, as many times as they want, without currency conversion fees or usage fees imposed by Schwab. They do not impose any currency conversion fee, above and beyond the 1% charged by the Visa network. Best of all, any ATM usage fees that are charged by the bank that owns the ATM machine are reimbursed at the end of each month, no matter where in the world that ATM machine may be located, and without limitation.

Alliant Federal Credit Union

Alliant is one of the largest credit unions in the United States, with over $8.2 billion in assets. It offers some very good free checking and savings accounts, some of which also pay very respectable interest rates. Account holders have access to 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the USA. These include Alliant owned ATMs, as well as machines that are part of the Alliance One, Allpoint, CO-OP Network, Credit Union 24, CU Here, and Publix Presto networks. In addition, it reimburses up to $20 per month in ATM fees, including the fees imposed by foreign banks. International withdrawals are only subject to the 1% fee that Visa charges to convert currencies.

Capital One 360

Capital One 360 is an internet bank that offers no minimum balance free checking and savings accounts. Like Schwab, it does not impose any ATM usage fees on its customers. Unlike Charles Schwab, it does not reimburse the ATM card usage fees imposed by the owners of the machines. Inside the USA, you can use any machine bearing the symbol of the “Allpoint” network completely free of charge. That network is immense, comprising 55,000 machines. You are almost certain, therefore, to find more than one Allpoint ATM wherever you might be, as long as you stay within the 50 states. Outside the USA, even over the border in Canada, the Capital One 360 card falls short, at least in comparison to Charles Schwab. It does not provide free use of Allpoint ATMs located outside the USA, nor does not reimburse any ATM usage fees, regardless of the location of the machine. Thankfully, like Schwab, Capital One does not charge any currency conversion fees above the 1% charged by Mastercard’s network.

Ally Bank

Ally is an internet bank that also offers a number of attractive no fee, no minimum balance checking and savings accounts. It also uses the Allpoint ATM network. Again, that allows you to use 55,000 ATM machines, all over the USA, free of charge. In addition, Ally reimburses up to $10 per month worth of bank charges for the use of ATMs outside the Allpoint network, so long as you stay inside the USA. Ally does not impose any usage charges when you use another bank’s ATM machine, regardless of where it is located. However, even withdrawals from Allpoint ATMs in other countries are subject to whatever usage fees are imposed by the owner of the machine. It charges a fee of 1% on foreign currency conversions above and beyond that charged by Visa/Mastercard. You will pay 2% on every currency conversion, still low by the standards of most banks, but double the charges at Schwab, Alliant FCU  and Capital One.

Bank of Internet USA

With a number of different accounts at “Bank of Internet USA”, you can use ATM anywhere within the USA, non matter who owns them, and get reimbursed for the charges. Reimbursement is dependent upon the type of account you have. Their Rewards Checking, CashBack Checking, and Essential Checking accounts reimburse 100% of the ATM fee by the end of the next business day, so long as the transaction takes place at an ATM inside the USA. There is a 2% foreign currency conversion rate for all international withdrawals and usage fees imposed by foreign banks are not reimbursed. Although the Bank of Internet USA does not levy fees of its own, the 2% foreign currency conversion rate brings your currency conversion cost up to 3%, making what would otherwise be a comparatively good bank into a lousy one for people who often travel abroad.

Conclusion

All of the options I’ve listed above give customers a much better deal than the typical ripoff offered by a vast majority of banks and credit unions. The award for “best ATM card”, however, clearly goes to Charles Schwab Bank, especially for people who live overseas or travel a lot. Following closely is Alliant Federal Credit Union.

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2 thoughts on “PICK A BETTER BANK! THE BEST NO-FEE ATM CARDS!”

  1. A very useful list of free checking accounts with minimal fees – thanks !
    One comment: Capital 360 offers not only free checking, but balances also earn interest (0.6% at the time of writing). I am not sure whether the other accounts offer that benefit as well. Capital 360 was originally designed and marketed by the Netherland bank ING. Capital took that online bank over. It is still one of the best accounts out there in my opinion.

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