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Published July 15, 2021

How to Use an ATM

You can use an ATM to withdraw money with your debit card, and you can also deposit cash. Learn where to find ATMs and how to avoid fees when using them.

Automated teller machines (ATMs), sometimes referred to as automated banking machines (ABMs), allow you to withdraw and deposit money. These machines are incredibly convenient as they allow you to manage some of your day-to-day banking needs without having to visit a branch during their hours of operation. You can skip long lines, avoid rushing to get to the bank before it closes and get your banking done while you’re on the go at any hour of the day or night.

How to withdraw money from an ATM

To access cash from an ATM, you just need to follow a few simple steps:

  • Insert your debit or credit card into the ATM
  • Confirm your identity by entering your personal identification number (PIN)
  • Choose the account you want to withdraw funds from
  • Select how much you want to withdraw
  • Choose what type of bills you want, if this option is available. For example, you might choose to receive $100 as five $20 bills or two $50 bills.
  • Confirm that you’re willing to pay the fee, if necessary
  • Press OK and remove your debit or credit card
  • Remove your cash from the ATM

The majority of ATMs in Canada only allow you to withdraw Canadian dollars. That said, some machines do offer U.S. dollars. You’ll also find a few ATMs that will allow you to withdraw other foreign currencies, but they’re usually only in airports.

Keep in mind that most financial institutions set a daily withdrawal limit, such as $1,000. However, you can call your bank and ask to have the limit increased if you’re planning to make a large withdrawal.

Although you can use your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM, it’s usually an expensive way to get cash. Most financial institutions will consider this transaction a cash advance and will begin charging high interest immediately on top of any fees.

» MORE: The best chequing accounts in Canada

How to deposit cash in an ATM

Depositing money into an ATM is easy:

  • Insert your debit card into the ATM
  • Enter your PIN to confirm your identity
  • Select “deposit” and choose your account
  • Enter the amount you’re depositing
  • Choose cash, cheques, or cash and cheques, if your ATM allows this option
  • Put your money into the designated slot if no envelope is required
  • If an envelope is necessary, insert your cash and/or cheques, then seal the envelope before putting it into the machine
  • Confirm your deposit
  • Remove your debit card

Although you can withdraw cash at just about every ATM, you can usually only make deposits at a machine owned by your financial institution. Other ATMs will not accept your deposits. Most ATMs will only accept Canadian dollars and cheques, but some machines take U.S. dollars. If you need to deposit a USD cheque, you’ll likely have to visit your bank in person.

When depositing cash at an ATM, you’ll have access to that money right away. However, if you’re depositing a cheque, only a portion of the amount will be available immediately. Once your cheque clears in five to eight days, the rest of the funds will be available.

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What fees do ATMs charge?

ATMs charge a variety of fees, but you may not be responsible for all of them. Here’s what you need to look out for:

  • Regular account fees: If you exceed the number of transactions allowed by your financial institution, you may have to pay $1 or $2 per additional withdrawal.
  • Network access fee: When using an ATM not owned by your financial institution, you may have to pay $2 or $3. This fee can go up to $5 when using international ATMs.
  • Convenience fee: Privately owned ATMs may charge a convenience fee on top of the network access fee.
  • Currency exchange fees: Most financial institutions will charge a currency exchange fee of 2.5% when you withdraw foreign currencies.

To limit the fees you’ll pay, stick to ATMs owned by your financial institution. If your account includes limited transactions, you’ll also want to watch how many you’re making, as any extra transactions will cost you. If you’re constantly going over the limit, check to see whether your bank or credit union offers an account with unlimited transactions, or consider switching banks.

Where to find an ATM

Finding an ATM is easy, as just about every bank has an ATM locator on their website and in their banking app. Your debit card will work at just about any ATM in Canada, though you’ll want to watch out for the network access fees described above.

However, when you travel outside the country, you need to check what network your bank uses.

  • Visa owns the Plus network.
  • Mastercard owns the Maestro and Cirrus networks.

Look at the back of your debit card for the Plus, Maestro, or Cirrus symbols. You’ll also see those symbols on ATMs, so you’ll know right away if your card will work. Both Visa and Mastercard have online ATM locators to help you find an ATM when you’re travelling.

Regardless of where in the world you use an ATM, you should always take basic safety precautions. Cover the PIN pad while you enter your PIN, and never use a machine that appears to have been tampered with. If you notice any fraudulent transactions on your account, report them to your bank right away.

» MORE: Travelling? Consider using a credit card when overseas

About the Author

Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert. His website is one of Canada's most trusted sites when it comes to all things related to money and travel.

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