100 Words On: The One-Armed Bandit’s Armless Cousin

Who hasn’t been fleeced by a casino slot machine? Although only Keno offers worse odds of winning, slots are by far the most popular casino game, responsible for 70 percent of gambling industry winnings — so it’s really no surprise they’re derisively called one-armed bandits. Like casinos, banks have their own army of two-faced dollar desperadoes: automated teller machines. ATMs have no qualms heisting 15 percent per $20 withdrawal. For the careless, those sneaky fees can really add up.

The bottom line: Don’t be disarmed by the lack of arms. ATMs are just as adept at absconding with your cash as slot machines.

Photo Credit: Andres Rueda


    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      I wanted to get that very fact in the piece, Griper, but I ran over my 100-word limit, so thanks for pointing that out.

  1. 3

    Bill says

    My sure fire way to cut down on robbery by the no armed ATM when an Allpoint network ATM isn’t around: purchase a 69 cent candy bar from Kmart with my debit card and get cash back. Not only do I save $3 to $4 on an ATM fee, but I also get to enjoy a Snickers or Milky Way bar for my troubles.

    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      That will certainly do the trick, Bill. That tricky move is the sole reason I have a debit card — avoiding ATM fees. As for the candy: I love Milky Ways — especially Milky Way After Dark. That dark chocolate really puts a tasty twist on them.

  2. 7


    Wouldn’t it be fun, though, to have an ATM machine that spun a wheel and TOLD YOU how much money you could withdraw today? That would be awesome. Not practical and probably illegal in areas outside a reservation, but hysterical all the same.

    • 8

      Len Penzo says

      Or the banks implemented a “fees by chance” scheme, kind of like a slot machine, where you didn’t know what your fees would be until after you withdrew your money.

  3. 9

    Tony says

    I remember back in the day when used car salesmen and lawyers were the most hated job professions… now it’s bankers and politicians.

  4. 11

    DC says

    My credit union has a nice service on their web page — a free-ATM locator! Just enter a zip code or address wherever you happen to be in the US, and a list of several nearby free-to-use ATM’s pops up.

    I haven’t paid an ATM fee in years. Nor any checking account fees, credit card fees, etc. for that matter.

    To hell with too-big-to-jail banks!

    • 12

      Len Penzo says

      That is a nice service, DC. I recently got stuck paying a $2.50 fee at (of all places) the hotel where I was attending last year’s Personal Finance Blogger’s conference. That really frosted me, but I was stuck.

  5. 13


    Hmmm, I never thought of ATMs quite like that. I only use the ATM for cash in those instances where a check or credit won’t work. I never pay fees of any kind.

    • 14

      Len Penzo says

      It’s a game for me too. I try to see how long I can go between trips to the ATM. I’ve gone as long as two months between visits.

    • 16

      Len Penzo says

      Just to play Devil’s advocate: Most slots offer a payback of between 80 and 90 percent — which is almost as good as the banks offer on a $20 withdrawal (plus with slots you get the chance of walking away with more in your pocket.)

      Yes, I know. Withdrawing only $20 from an ATM is about the worst thing you can do from a fees perspective.

  6. 17

    Againstthegrain says

    Frequently using an ATM to get more cash and paying fees reminds me of people who fail to plan for food shopping and cooking, so they dine out or order take-out all the time. Wrong priorities, in any case.

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