What to know about checking, debit cards and free ATMs

This content is sponsored by PenFed Credit Union, federally insured by NCUA.

When you’re building your budget, every penny counts. So why waste any money when you don’t need to? ATM fees are just one place where needless costs can really rack up – so here are some tips to find the right checking or debit card for you with free ATM use.

An ATM, or automated teller machine, is a computer where you can check your account balance, deposit or withdraw cash and complete other financial tasks. An ATM eliminates the need for people to go to a bank for many basic banking needs, and provides more flexibility since ATM services are largely available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

ATMs revolutionized the banking industry in the 1960s by allowing customers to withdraw cash and do other transactions without the help of a bank teller at brick-and-mortar bank, Forbes noted.

To complete a financial task using an ATM, you insert your checking or debit card into a slot where it connects electronically with your bank account. The machine requires a PIN number to perform the transaction.

When you use an ATM within your bank or credit union’s network, you usually don’t incur a fee. However, making an ATM withdrawal outside of your bank’s network usually results in two fees: a surcharge from the owner of the ATM and a fee from your own bank or credit union.

A 2021 Bankrate survey found that ATM surcharges, on average, cost noncustomers $3.08. But the average ATM surcharge is still its second highest in the history of Bankrate’s survey. Banks also charge an average $1.51, a 10-year low, to use a competitor’s ATM. Out-of-network surcharges have decreased for four straight years.

At PenFed Credit Union, members can get access to a network of more than 85,000 fee-free ATMs through Allpoint Network, Co-op Networks and PenFed Branches in the US.

“This gives you access to more machines than the leading banks,” PenFed Credit Union said.

Fee-free in the Coop and All Point networks are located at many well-known retailers such as Target, CVS Pharmacy, Circle K, Winn Dixie, Rite Aid, Kroger, Speedway and Safeway.

“PenFed will not charge an out-of-network ATM fee, but out-of-network ATM fee may be levied by the financial institution that owns the ATM, and fees will vary depending on the financial institution that owns the ATM,” PenFed noted.

Free ATM use is just one element of a favorable checking account. Checking accounts are often used for everyday spending and associated with a debit card that can help you make purchases and ATM withdrawals.

With the adoption of online and mobile banking, you can now check your accounts, review recent transactions, schedule bill payments, deposit checks, and more. You can also securely link your checking and debit cards to your smartphone to make easy contactless payments. There are different types of checking accounts, such as free checking accounts or high-yield checking accounts that can lead to differing dividends earned.

The best checking accounts have a low minimum balance requirement, consistently high interest rates, an easy money-transfer process and simple ways to make both withdrawals and deposits, MyMoneyBlog.com noted. Dependable online interfaces and helpful customer service are also at the top of the list.

With PenFed Credit Union, you don’t have to pay to access your own money and you don’t have to pay a monthly maintenance fee. Users can open a checking account with as little as $25.

Through PenFed’s free checking/debit card, you can feel good about safe and secure transactions.

“Rest easy knowing that if your debit card is lost or stolen, you won’t be responsible for any unauthorized charges,” PenFed said.

The PenFed debit card allows for contactless payments through touchless store purchases at participating locations. Also, there is a digital wallet component that lets users pay right from their phone or watch, and is fully compatible with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay. Digital wallets are safe and equipped with security features that can help prevent financial fraud, PenFed’s experts said.

“Letting go of your beloved physical wallet — bulky as it may be — is a big decision to make,” PenFed Credit Union’s experts said. “If you’re ready to make the leap to a digital wallet, you can enjoy the convenience of a streamlined system for making contactless payments, transferring money, shopping online, storing tickets, boarding passes, and so much more.”

Read more about checking accounts, debit cards and ATMs on PenFed Credit Union’s website. PenFed Credit Union is federally insured by NCUA.

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