Australians still pay half a billion dollars a year in ATM fees when they don’t need to.

They could withdraw their money for free at their own banks’ ATMs, or even get a debit card that doesn’t charge fees.

But many continue to use machines belonging to a third-party provider which commonly charge a $2 fee.

A recent RateCity.com.au survey found an incredible four in ten ATM withdrawals incur unnecessary fees.

That cost Australians an estimated $548 million in avoidable fees last year, the financial comparison site said after analysing Reserve Bank of Australia data.

AN RBA report last year found that direct ATM charges have, on average, risen slightly in real terms since 2009 industry reforms.

The amount spent on ATM fees has fallen as demand for ATM services has declined amid a consumer shift towards electronic payments.

But the RateCity survey found that one in three Australians still pay ATM fees, with women and young adults more willing to fork out for convenience.

ATMs in pubs and convenience stores are increasing their charges to $2.50, rather than the $2 most bank ATMs charge, so avoid these machines completely if you can.

Even though your bank doesn’t charge you to use its own network of ATMs, Australian banks are earning fees of over $1.7 million per day to allow you to transact on another bank’s ATM. That’s $650 million per year. With roughly 9 million households in Australia that’s over $70 per household per year on average.

So to avoid these ATM fees, get into a few simple habits.

1. There’s an app for that – do you really need the cash?

Most bank phone apps include electronic transfers, so you don’t need to repay your friends with cash if they have picked up the tab at lunch.  You can use your smart phone to transfer the money directly into their bank account.

If you do need the cash, the Bank’s app can help you locate their nearest ATM to your current location. If you don’t have a smart phone, check out your bank’s website for locations before you leave home.

2. Groceries and cash

Most supermarkets, and many other shops, will allow you to withdraw cash free of charge at the EFTPOS terminal when you make a purchase.  So when you’re at the checkout, remember to check your wallet.

3. Aligned networks – know which one your bank belongs to

Some banks have deals with associated banks so you can use their ATMs without charge. Check your bank’s website or call in and ask them so you know whose ATMs you can use without charges.  For example, CBA allows you to use BankWest ATMs free of charge, and vice versa.  Citibank is part of the Westpac and St George ATM network.

4. Wave them away.

Use tap-and-go facilities, like PayPass, to make contactless payments from your savings account instead of using cash, then you won’t need an ATM as often.

Get into these simple habits to avoid paying unnecessary fees.

What are your thoughts?

Are you a convert – vowing never to pay ATM fees again? Did we leave anything out? Is there anything else you’d like to know about managing your money?

Join the conversation — leave a comment below and let us know what you’re thoughts are.

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