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Secrets of Outsmarting the ATM


I still remember how proud I was to open my first checking account. Even better: getting my work permit when I turned 16, and then going to the grocery store and saying, "I'd like to cash a check." Pre-ATM days required some planning.

Omnipresent ATMs make it easy to grab $20, but it's the classic case of both blessing and curse. Personal finance writer Donna Freedman clearly believes that curse is more accurate -- and for more reasons than you'd guess. After reading her post on Five Ways to Outwit the ATM, I'm looking at cash machines in a whole new way.

Freedman makes the case that ATMs are superhighways on the road to impulse purchases. She advocates being your own ATM or using ATM alternatives, and she offers some great tips and links to help break the $20 here and there habit.

Have you noticed that bank fees seem to be going up lately? Check the fine print on your statement about any changes to the number of ATM or online transactions permitted, different terms, or increases in fees. They can add up fast.

If you must hit a cash machine, Freedman suggests making a mental map of your bank's three closest ATMs. Better yet, smart phone owners can download a free app to find a nearby ATM whether you're at home or traveling. Many banks have them; just look on your bank's home page.

Have any of you gone on ATM diet, either cold turkey or by limiting use? Do you think now might be a good time to try? Or (gasp) - are you among the rare breed who have never had a debit card? Tell us about it in the comments below or on our Facebook page, and help inspire the rest of us.

(Photo via Colin_n on Flickr)

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