You cover up the key pad when you're hovering over the ATM, you don't hit a dark, unmanned cash machine at night, and maybe you have even mastered the difference between ATMs that give your card back immediately and those that hang on to it until the bitter end. (Or you're like me and have lost half a dozen cards this way.)
All of these safety precautions can protect you from a lurking bad guy ready to grab your money. But what about everyday ATM safety that doesn't involve an unsavory character? Are you guarding your bank account as well as you should?
Probably not, if you're one of the many people who make the following ATM mistakes:
You can lose your shirt paying fees from not only the ATM machine, but your own bank when you don't use their ATM. You can't always find your own bank around the corner, so understand how much you'll be charged and under what circumstances. Using a service like Mint.com is helpful as they alert you when you've been charged a fee. If you must use ATMs that charge double fees, withdraw more money at a time so you aren't getting hit with a fee for every 20 bucks you need for lunch.
While you don't want to always search your overcrowded brain for your PIN number -- or worse, write it down -- you also don't want to choose a PIN that will be an obvious combo. Four numbers in a row, four of the same, your birthday, or anything else a thief or someone who just happens to find your card left in the slot could easily access or guess is a big no-no. To create a challenging PIN that you won't forget, look at the letters on the key pad and pick a word that corresponds with a random mix of numbers.
Not Tracking Your Cash Purchases
When you have cash, you don't have a record of where it went. If you're trying to follow a budget, you have to know where every $40 withdrawal wound up: eating out, gas, or at the movies. Request a receipt the next time you hit Starbucks, or jot it down when you get home. Otherwise those cash withdrawals will sabotage your budget.
Treating It Like a Credit Card
While most ATM cards do have a credit card logo attached, don't believe you can use your bank card in the same manner. Even if you have an overdraft protection account attached to your ATM, those fees will add up if you don't pay attention to your balance. Additionally, if your ATM card is lost or stolen, you don't get the same protection as a credit card. Reporting a stolen credit card means you're only responsible for $50 of fraudulent charges. Your bank account will be cleared out in no time, and most banks do not offer any protection prior to reporting it missing.
Image via Tony the Misfit/Flickr