I’ve been a longtime AmEx cardholder – for both personal and business – but this is the first time I have ever received a letter like this from them. They automatically enrolled my business credit card for ATM cash withdrawals using a PIN.
The funny thing is that I have had this card for several years, so it’s quite odd that all of a sudden they are automatically adding this feature to my account.
What’s the catch?
Is an American Express cash withdrawal free? Sadly, no.
It’s true that you can use your credit card at over 800,000 ATM locations around the world. But this benefit comes at a cost and it’s not cheap. Here’s how it works.
1. Find out how much you can get – As you see in the letter, they don’t specify how much you can get. If you login to your American Express account, click on “Check Your Spending Ability” where you will be taken to a screen like this:
Enter how much you want and submit – it will spit back whether or not the amount is acceptable.
Through trial and error, starting at a $10k request, I found out they’re only willing to fork over a max of $1,000 to me. Everything above that got denied.
2. Know the cash advance interest rate – Unlike regular purchases, with cash advances there is no grace period. Interest will begin accruing the very moment you withdraw the cash. Not to mention, the rate will be significantly higher than whatever your purchase APR is.
That’s what was seen on the application for the Blue Cash card when I wrote this. Note that the rate might have changed since, but using this as an example, it means you would be paying 25.24% starting the same day you get the money.
3. Know the cash advance fees – As if the APR isn’t high enough, you will also be charged a cash advance fee. Here is an example but what your American Express card charges may differ:
4. Find a participating ATM – Their listing can be found at findanamexatm.com. The participating ATM networks are: NYCE, PLUS, STAR, Accel Exchange, AFFN, US Bank, and Fifth Third Bank.
5. Get your money – If all of the above hasn’t deterred you from getting an American Express cash advance, then go for it.
Is it ever worth it?
There are very few scenarios I can think of where one could argue that the American Express ATM fees + APR + cash advance fees are a logical choice. Other than some extreme emergency where currency is needed immediately, I can’t think of why anyone would use this feature. It’s just too expensive. But not to beat up on them, because all banks charge equally outrageous fees and rates to do ATM withdrawals.