Traveling to Las Vegas? Be sure to pack wisely. The top priorities: 1) Cash. 2) More cash.
The slot machines are designed to beat visitors, but they’re not the most flagrantly rigged device in the casino. Instead, that title goes to the ATMs.
Along the Strip, the deal on getting access to money is awful. Don’t count on finding familiar big-name bank logos in most Strip casinos; the machines there are operated by no-name companies. They have identical ATMs – with identically vicious fee structures – in gambling halls ranging from the gritty O’Shea’s to the upscale MGM Grand.
How hard do they hit you? Some charge a $4.99 fee for a standard cash withdrawal from your checking account. (Plus whatever charge your bank levies). And that’s a bargain compared to getting a cash advance from your credit card through these ATMs. Getting $500 will rack up $31.99 in fees, and $250 will cost you $21.99.
The biggest hit comes if you dip in for a small amount: For a $50 cash advance, the advertised fee is $9.99. At O’Shea’s, the advertised fee is $9.99 for transactions under $50. (So if you just need a $20 for cabfare, your account gets whacked with a 50 percent penalty). At the Orleans, the fee for under $50 transaction is $6.
Is it impossible to find an alternative? No, but it’s not easy. On the south end of the Strip is a Bank of Nevada ATM that charges $3.50 for a standard cash withdrawal. Perhaps you can find others here or there if you hunt long enough.
Walk the heart of Las Vegas, though, and you won’t find a Wells Fargo or Bank of America branch.
Of course, this is far from the only tourist trap in town.
Major-name hotels have kiosks charging $5 a minute for Internet access, with a 50-cents-per-page printing charge. (So they turn a profit even on a simple convenience like letting guests print boarding passes). Phone card rates go for 12.9 cents a minute. A 1-liter Pepsi at the Orleans gift shop runs $2.75, a small fruit cup at Starbucks at the MGM is $4.49, coffee and a single pastry at the Paris go for $8.91.
But if you’re going to pay those charges, be sure to charge them – or else, pay with cash that you brought from home.