How to use a credit card at an ATM
Using a credit card at an ATM to get cash is very similar to withdrawing money with a debit card. Locate an ATM near you, preferably one that is on the correct network for your credit card issuer and does not charge a fee.
Once you choose the ATM you’d like to use, insert the credit card. The ATM may ask for the PIN associated with that card. Since you don’t have to use the PIN when making purchases with a credit card, you may not know it. You can resolve this by calling the number on the back of the credit card and getting your PIN reset.
After you’ve entered your PIN, you can enter the amount of cash you’d like to receive — making sure not to exceed your card’s cash advance limit — and the ATM will disburse the money to you.
Getting a cash advance through an ATM can be an incredibly convenient way to get cash when you need it, regardless of where you are. Unlike a standard debit or ATM card transaction, however, using your credit card in this way can come with some extra side effects you may not find so convenient.
The costs of using a credit card at an ATM
There are several ways credit card issuers, banks, and even businesses that host ATMs make money on your transactions.
1. ATM fees
Just like debit cards, credit cards are part of specific ATM networks based on the card’s issuer. Using a credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM outside of its network normally means you’ll pay a fee to the ATM network.
Additionally, businesses that let ATMs operate on their premises can charge an additional fee to consumers who use the ATM. These fees alone can increase the cost of your transaction by several dollars if you end up paying two separate fees.
2. Cash advance fees
Even if you don’t end up having to pay fees at the ATM, you’ll still have another fee to contend with. Credit card companies view it as a cash advance when you use your card at an ATM, and that means you’ll pay any applicable cash advance fees if you take a cash withdrawal with your credit card.
You can find out exactly how much you’ll pay by looking at the disclosures for your particular credit card. That’s where credit card companies, by law, have to be very clear about what using your card will cost you.
You’ll usually pay either a flat rate or a percentage of the cash advance, whichever is higher; expect to pay something like $5 or 3% of the advance amount. On a $500 withdrawal, for instance, you could pay up to roughly $15.
That might not seem like a lot, but it can end up being more expensive if you take a smaller cash advance. If your card charges $5 or 3% for a cash advance and you withdraw only $20, you’ll be hit with a $5 fee, which works out to be 25% of your cash advance. This means that small withdrawals can be incredibly costly on a percentage basis.
The last way credit card companies make money on cash advances is through interest charges. Interest rates on cash advances tend to be 4% to 5% higher than the interest on purchase balances. In some cases that APR can be as high as 27.49% or more—even if your purchase APR is much lower.
Many cards also start charging interest on cash advances immediately, rather than waiting until the statement closes and payment comes due. This means you could be hit with surprise interest charges on your bill if you get a cash advance early in your statement period and don’t pay it off right away. It can also make your monthly payments far less effective at reducing your balance if you only pay the minimum amount due each month.
FAQs about using a credit card at an ATM
Below are some common questions you will want to consider before using your credit card to take out a cash advance through an ATM.
- What’s my current credit card balance? It’s important to know this before your ATM visit. You don’t want to go to an ATM looking for cash and come away realizing that you’ve already reached your card’s credit limit, or you can’t withdraw as much as you actually need. (Make sure you know the difference between your statement balance and your current balance.)
- What’s my cash advance limit? Most cards have a separate (usually lower) limit for cash advances than purchases. You can find out what yours is and whether you need to ask for an upgrade to your cash advance limit by calling your card issuer’s customer service hotline, which is usually listed on the back of your card. Keep in mind they may not approve you on the spot for an increase if you need one.
- What terms and transaction fees are involved? If you even think you might want to use your credit card in the ATM sometime in the future, you’ll want to research your card’s cash advance limits, rates, and added finance charges.
- When should I set up the PIN or call to ensure I have available cash advance limit? Long before you think you’ll need to use it.
Alternatives to getting cash
Before you put your credit card into the ATM and possibly start racking up added interest and fees, you may want to consider some other options available to you. These potentially include:
- Borrowing from family or friends
- Writing a check on your bank account (but making sure you’ll have the funds to cover it before it’s cashed)
- Paying the surcharge and simply using the credit card for the purchase
- If you’re caught without cash while traveling or just need a temporary influx of funds, get someone to send you cash via Western Union or MoneyGram
The bottom line
Being able to pop your credit card into an ATM and get cash out can seem like a lifesaver if you’re in a financial bind, but you should treat it as a last resort. You’ll want to make sure you understand all of the associated costs and have a plan to mitigate them.
In addition, check out other options. Convenience isn’t always the best path, especially when it could cost you a lot more in the long run than the cash you initially needed.