How to Use an ATM: A Guide

Gregory Tanzer, Senior Managing Director, First Republic Bank
September 13, 2022

  • ATMs are a convenient way to access cash, make a deposit or check your balance whenever you need to.
  • You can access a checking account or savings account through an ATM, although your savings account may come with withdrawal limitations.
  • Credit cards can be used to withdraw money from an ATM, but such access can come with heavy fees and interest charges.

An automatic teller machine (ATM) can be helpful in a variety of ways, especially if you need access to money when your bank is not open. An ATM can help you withdraw cash while giving you insights into your checking and savings account balances. Learning how to use an ATM can save you time and money during your next transaction.

What Does ATM Stand For?
The term ATM stands for “automated teller machine,” which conducts simple banking tasks, including deposits and withdrawals from your accounts. ATMs can also tell you your balance and transfer funds across accounts, among other functions.

How to deposit cash at an ATM

Depositing money as cash versus checks in an ATM wasn’t a reality until the 2000s. Now, you can use your debit card to access your bank account, determine the deposit amount and deposit dollar bills into the machine’s slot. 

Can you deposit cash at an ATM? Yes, usually — as long as your bank supports this feature. Here’s how it’s usually done:

  1. Insert your card of choice (ATM, debit or credit) into the machine’s slot.
  2. Enter your personal identification number (PIN) when prompted. This is usually a 4-digit number.
  3. Select the transaction type you want to perform (a cash deposit in this case).
  4. Select the account receiving the deposit.
  5. Enter the dollar amount of the cash you’re depositing when prompted.
  6. Insert cash into the machine where instructed.

These steps are similar for check deposits, except you endorse the check and insert it into the appropriate slot when told to. 

How much money can you deposit at an ATM?

Banks rarely limit how much money you can deposit into your account via ATM. You’re more likely to encounter a limit on how many bills you can enter into the machine at once. Cash deposits of more than $10,000 have to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) but you are typically still allowed to make deposits of $10,000 or more. Bank policies may vary, so check with your financial institution for more details.

How to withdraw cash from an ATM

ATM withdrawals are fairly straightforward, even if ATMs vary in specifics.

  1. Insert your card into the machine when prompted.
  2. Enter your PIN.
  3. Select the transaction type (withdrawal, in this case).
  4. Select the account from which you wish to withdraw.
  5. Take your card back and wait for your money to be dispensed.

How much money can you withdraw from an ATM?

There is no industry standard on ATM withdrawals; rather, each bank sets its own withdrawal cap. How much you can withdraw is up to the bank’s own policy as well as other factors, like how long your account has been active. Most withdrawal limits range from $300 to $1,000 per day.

How to check your balance at an ATM

You can use ATMs to check your account balance without withdrawing or depositing money. This is typically true for bank ATMs as well as third-party providers, although the latter may incur fees from your bank. Your account balance appears either on screen or as a printed receipt, helping you know how much money is in your account before you take out cash.

How much are ATM fees?

ATM fees vary depending on two factors: the policy of your own bank and the ATM provider’s surcharge. Financial institutions may deduct a fee from your account if you use out-of-network ATMs. The ATM provider may also charge its own surcharge to use the machine. However, some banks and credit unions may reimburse you for a certain number of out-of-network withdrawals.

How to find an ATM

You can find an ATM through your bank’s own app or website. These maps will show you in-network ATMs, which can help you cut down on or avoid fees. You can also search online if you’re willing to use an out-of-network ATM.

ATM security tips

It’s crucial that you exercise discretion and safety when using an ATM. Follow a few simple steps to help keep your funds secure when withdrawing or depositing money or checking your account balance: 

  • When possible, use ATMs within bank branches.
  • Cover your hand when entering your PIN to obscure its numbers from view.
  • Check your ATM for any suspicious markings, hidden cameras or misaligned card readers.


Can you use a credit card at an ATM?

You can use a credit card ATM to withdraw money against your account. The money you withdraw shows up as a credit card transaction rather than a debit, as it would with a savings or checking account. This option, known as a cash advance, is often subject to steep fees that can range from 20% to 25%. This is significantly higher than the typical credit card transaction annual percentage rate (APR).

Can you deposit a check at an ATM?

Some ATMs and banks allow you to deposit a check at an ATM rather than online or with a teller. Most bank branch locations accept check deposits via ATM so long as you have an account. Some may also require you to submit a deposit slip with what you put into your account, but this practice is falling out of favor. Although you can withdraw funds from any bank’s ATM, you must have an open and active account with that particular bank to use their ATM to deposit a check.

Third-party, out-of-network ATMs typically do not accept deposits for accounts at other banks. Since each bank and ATM network has different policies, it’s important to check with your provider for more specific guidance. 

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