You need a debit or credit card and a personal identification number to withdraw money from an automated teller machine, or ATM. In some cases, you'll also have to pay fees to get your money. Although ATM transactions are commonplace, they do pose a few risks.
If you didn't get a debit card or ATM card when you opened your bank account, you can request one by contacting your bank. Also, contact your bank if you don't have a PIN or have forgotten it.
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Use the ATM outside your bank branch, or locate another ATM that belongs to your bank. Some banks and credit card companies provide an online ATM locator. Your card may also work in ATMs from other banks.
Some prepaid cards and gift cards, such as MasterCard gift cards, also allow you to make ATM withdrawals.
Not all ATMs are identical, but the general method is the same. Insert the card in the slot provided, holding it in the position shown on a diagram on the machine. Some ATMs read your card immediately, meaning you can pull it out before entering your transactions. Other ATMs require you to keep the card in the machine for the duration of your transaction. You might also have the option of choosing a language. After you enter your PIN, follow the directions on the screen:
- Select "cash withdrawal" as your transaction.
- Enter the amount or select a fixed amount shown on the screen.
- Confirm your withdrawal amount and state whether or not you want a receipt.
- Select "complete transaction."
- The machine will eject your cash, receipt and, if applicable, card.
Don't forget to retrieve your card and receipt when you take your money.
If you want to use your card abroad, banks recommend contacting them to put a travel notice on your account. Otherwise, they might suspect fraud and block your withdrawal.
Many banks allow you to use their own ATMs without any fee. If you use an ATM outside your bank's network, the other bank typically charges a fee that averages $2.60 per use, according to Bankrate. In addition, your own bank may charge its own out-of-network fee -- $1.53 on average.
If you're using a credit card to get cash from an ATM, it's considered a cash advance and may carry a special transaction fee. The interest rate on a cash advance is also typically higher than for purchases.
Using an ATM to make cash withdrawals can put your personal safety, identity and money at risk.
Protect your credit and debit cards the same as cash, and report any theft immediately to the bank. Choose a PIN that's hard to guess. Don't tell anyone what it is and don't write it on anything in your wallet.
Fake and Modified ATMs
Thieves sometimes modify ATMs to skim your card information and PIN and raid your bank account. For example, they may cover a legitimate ATM card slot with a fake card reader that transmits your information. They might also put a fake keypad on top of the real one or put cameras in the machine.
Skimmers are typically smaller than a pack of cards and are installed on top of the real card reader, according to PC Magazine. A camera may be in various locations, including inside the card reader or on the side or top of the ATM. PC Magazine provides some ways to check for tampered machines:
- Look for anything that doesn't match the rest of the ATM, such as a different color.
- Check for anything that doesn't line up properly, such as graphics.
- Compare the machine you want to use to others nearby. If they aren't the same, don't use any of them.
- Make sure the keyboard feels normal. If it's extra thick, it may be fake.
- Juggle the keyboard and card reader to make sure they aren't loose. Looseness could mean they are fake additions.
- Wiggle the card while you insert it in the reader. That can create problems for a skimmer, but not for a legitimate card reader.
You have a higher chance of getting skimmed at an ATM on the weekend, reports PC Magazine. Thieves sometime put their gadgets on for the weekend and take them off before the bank opens the next week.
General ATM Precautions
The U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union has additional suggestions for your personal safety at the ATM as well as protecting your cash and identity:
- At night, choose an ATM with good lighting. Pick an ATM you can see from the street.
- Get your card ready and have your PIN in mind before you approach the machine.
- Perform your transaction efficiently, and cover your hand with your body when you put in your PIN number.
- Don't stop to count your money. Wait until you're away from the machine.
- Don't forget your receipt or card.
ATM receipts are a serious threat to the security of your identity and bank account. When you no longer need your receipt, shred it, recommends the U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union.
- Hands on Banking: How to Use an ATM
- Bank of America: FAQs ATMs and ATM Fees
- Bankrate: How Much Do You Pay in ATM Fees?
- Bank of America: What is a Credit Card Cash Advance?
- U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union: ATM Safety Tips
- MasterCard: ATM Locator Support FAQs
- PC Magazine: How to Spot and Avoid Credit Card Skimmers
- Gizmodo: How Anyone Can Fake an ATM and Steal Your Money