Don’t Rack Up ATM Fees, Buy Hot Wheels Cars

What should you do when the bank is closed, you need some cash, and there’s no ATM handy that doesn’t charge piles of fees? Sure, you could join a bank with no local branches that refunds ATM fees, like USAA, Schwab, or Ally. Some local banks do this, too, but if the branch isn’t open, you can’t go open a new account. That’s when you open an account at the Bank of Hot Wheels.

The Bank of Hot Wheels is not literally a bank, nor is it licensed by Hot Wheels. It’s a life hack that Zach Bowman of Road & Track devised that avoids ATM fees and empty calories.

The plan is simple: instead of paying $3-5 in ATM fees, pop into the nearest grocery store, pharmacy, or discount store. You see, there are two things that all of these retailers have in common. “They offer no-penalty cash back,” notes Bowman, “and they sell Hot Wheels.” The cars cost $1-$1.50, depending on where you are. Pay with your debit card, selecting the “cash back” option. Pocket the cash and the car.

Yeah, yeah, you could buy a soda, a candy bar, or something that you actually need instead. A Hot Wheels car is just an example of a theoretical tiny and common item that you could buy that’s small, cheap, fits in a pocket, and contains no empty calories.

If you don’t like tiny cars, give it to your own kids or to a niece, nephew, friend or co-worker’s kid, or save it for a holiday season gift drive. Or keep it on your desk and drive it around making “vroom, vroom” noises with your mouth when no one else is in the office. We don’t judge. Any of these things is still better than paying fees to your bank when you don’t have to.

Beat ATM fees with my Hot Wheels lifehack [Road & Track]

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  1. pguyton2 says:

    you could also then get a refund on the car, kind of unethical but most places will do it with no questions

    another thought , a .01 money order or load a gift card with .01 then just toss it in the trash.

  2. JustPassingBy says:

    Been doing this for ages already. Just buy something cheap that you’d get anyway.

  3. RupturedDuck says:

    I never pay ATM fees. Cash always works for me, 24/7, 365. It’s called discipline.

    • Do you mean the discipline to walk around with huge wads of cash and not spend it, the discipline to remember to go to the bank, or the discipline to never have emergencies come up?

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      I have the discipline to charge everything I used to pay for by cash or check (groceries, gas, clothing, even some utilities), pay off the balance in full every month, and get anywhere between 1% and 6% cash back.

      Not that it’s relevant to this post, but I also carry enough cash to use it whenever I make a purchase at small, independent local businesses. I actually negotiated a 1% discount for paying by check rather than by credit card when we had hardwood flooring installed by a local business. That’s what I would have gotten from the credit card anyway, and the owner still saved at least 2-3%.