Ask for what you want part 81493

Ramit Sethi

A couple years ago, I lived in New York for a while when I was doing a summer internship. While I was there, I decided not to open a bank account because it would take time, blah blah blah. So I just used those ATMs and ate the $3.00 charges ($1.50 from my bank, $1.50 from the ATM) each time. It was a revolting feeling but I didn’t think it was worth it to open a bank account just for a couple of months.

Now I feel dumb. I was just talking to my friend, who recently moved to New York in the same situation as I was: She’ll be there for a few months and didn’t want to open a bank account, but instead of just shrugging and saying “Damn that” she actually called her bank. She just asked them if they would waive the ATM fees while she was there. “No problem,” they said, and she’s going to save $100+ just for making a phone call.

I’ve written about how to negotiate out of bank fees before. But I didn’t even think of this!

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  1. Avery

    Or just buy a stick of gum at target or any store and get cash back

  2. Hawk

    Avery, not all stores do cash back. Just to clarify.

    For example, OfficeMAX does not. I don’t know why.

  3. Elizabeth

    I had the same experience when I moved to DC for an internship a few years back. Like your friend I asked my bank to waive the fees. They said they were happy to oblige; but they had no way of controlling how long the fees would be waived for. So, they told me that they would just waive my fees permanently. This turned out to be an extremely smart move on their part as I have since moved back to DC and while I opened a new bank account out here, I still keep my account open with them with a small amount of emergency money in it.

  4. Jonathan Ragan-Kelley

    My new bank refunds all ATM fees up to $15 or $20/month. (And yes, they allow non-military members, like me — just call and ask for a membership number.) Between this for checking and HSBC for savings, I get great service and interest rates, pay no fees for anything, have infinite free bank-to-bank transfers, AND get free Quicken AutoSync for all my accounts. Compared to Wells Fargo, BofA, and ING, I absolutely love it.

  5. Trevor

    Jonathan — They’re a great bank, was unaware they allow non-military members w/o military affiliations.. I highly recommend the car insurance too, I’ve found them to be pretty fair. and the check card gives back .5% cash back which isn’t great but, its free money versus some banks that charge you to use your debit card as a credit card…

  6. Doug

    Asking you bank to let you off the hook is a good start, but the real answer is joining a credit union. Most don’t charge fees for foreign ATM use, and the network of credit union ATMs means you are rarely far from a completely free transaction. Not to mention the joy of banking somewhere where the business model is designed to serve you, instead of to make money off of you.

  7. Eric N.

    Anyone know if Etrade Checking can have their fees waved?

  8. Matt

    Being charged a fee by your bank to use another ATM is outrageous, why support them? There are banks that not only don’t charge fees, but refund fees charged by the ATM. Several internet banks do this, as does Mechanics Bank in California ( There is some discussion of this service here:

  9. Nick

    What Doug said. I don’t understand how banks can get away with charging a fee every time you use an ATM. No financial institution I’ve ever used charged me a fee for using somebody else’s ATM. (The owner of the ATM might, but my bank too? Stupid.)

  10. Avery


    You are correct in that not all will alllow cash back, but many do–almost all grocery stores and many big box stores. I lived in a city without a home bank branch or ATM nearby for a school year by using that trick I only once used a “forign ATM.”

    Avery, not all stores do cash back. Just to clarify.

    For example, OfficeMAX does not. I don’t know why.

  11. ruthie

    Around these parts, Washington Mutual offers use of their ATMs with no charge- so you only pay your bank’s fee instead of both.

    My personal preference would be to go to a Walgreens or Rite Aid or CVS or wherever, buy something small (like a pack of gum) or needed and get cash back from the purchase. No charge from my bank, no charge from the store and easy enough.

  12. John

    Last week I noticed my Schwab account wasn’t switching cash into money market shares like it used to. So I called and they said they were phasing out 4.5% money market in favor of 1% for customers with less than a half-million. I said wtf screw you 1% isn’t 4.5% and I can move this money out, so they said hey ok, you can have 4.25%. One phone call was worth one thousand dollars a year, perhaps more.

  13. Honest Abe

    For many in America ATM fees can really add up. If you are charged $2.50 for every transaction and you take money out 6 times a month you are down $15 ($180/year). It might not sound like a lot, but that convenience can be costly.

  14. John

    It boggles the mind how easy it is to get out of bank fees sometimes. It’s almost like they’re just kidding when they even bring up the fee in the first place.

    I was at the bank the other day getting a cashier’s check (long story) and the teller goes “OK, but there’s a $5 fee for that.”

    I just replied “I’d like that fee waived.” That’s it. No explanation of why I wanted it waived. No justification. Nada.

    Her reply? “OK sir.”

  15. Michael W

    Eric N asked about Etrade checking…

    I have an Etrade checking account and they refund all ATM fees as long as your account maintains a $5,000 balance.

  16. Timothy

    Thats awesome. Thanks to you I’ve been fighting all my fees as new ones sprout up. While I haven’t been able to get out of ALL of them, I’ve been able to get out of most of them.