Bank fees for common transactions are becoming increasingly popular. A study by WalletHub found the average account holder at a major bank pays $470 every year in fees alone. The typical consumer checking account was found to have as many as 25 different fees associated with it. If you think bank fees are bleeding you dry, there are several first steps you can take to put that money back in your wallet.
“Overdraft protection is one extra that’s usually not worthwhile.”
Checking and Savings
U.S. News and World Report Money pointed out that checking and savings accounts can still be owned without a fee, so long as you maintain a minimum balance. There may also be other stipulations for free accounts, like signing up for electronic bills instead of paper, meeting a minimum direct deposit amount or opening another account with the bank. One common trick to avoid is the promise of overdraft protection; banks will recommend you pay a small fee to have transactions simply declined and avoid paying an overdraft fee. Since overdrafts can be easily avoided by just staying conscious of spending, this is a fee that’s ultimately not worthwhile.
The dreaded ATM fee has become a staple of banks everywhere. According to Bankrate, Americans put up with paying an extra $4.35 on average just to use an out-of-network ATM. Some banks will waive that fee, perhaps with the purchase of an unnecessary product or two, but consumers can get around paying ATM fees in a few ways. Bank mobile apps may have ATM finders that can pinpoint the location of a free machine. Alternatively, planning your purchasing may pay off. Most grocers, and many gas station convenience stores, offer cashback options at the register for no extra charge. This can even be used for a credit card without being considered a cash advance.
Make the Switch
If your current bank’s fees have you fed up, you always have the option of leaving for greener (and cheaper) pastures. It may go without saying, but do your homework to find a bank that will make your life easier and save you money. This doesn’t mean spending all your time searching for the mythical zero-fee bank, but it means finding a bank that fits your lifestyle. Maybe you can get a checking account without ATM fees if you have trouble finding in-network options in your area. You could also get an online-only bank that offers higher interest rates on savings accounts in exchange for less convenience that may work if you don’t typically deposit cash.
Once you’ve found “The One,” begin the process of switching. Depending on how many accounts you have in your current bank, this may take some careful planning to avoid interrupting access to your money. Bankrate offers a quick guide on accomplishing this with minimal hassle. Perhaps the most important step involves moving your direct deposit and automatic billers to your new account as soon as possible. Any interruption of cash flow or utilities could cause an even bigger headache than sticking with your current bank.
It may not seem like it, but most banks do value your business and will offer incentives for maintaining that relationship. Ask your bank about any discounts that may apply to you. Commonly you can find student and senior checking accounts that may have fewer fees and lower minimum balances. Alternatively, if you’ve been a customer for several years and have significant balances with the bank, visit a branch and discuss what benefits you might like with a manager. U.S. News and World Report noted that fees aren’t set in stone, and can be waived at the discretion of someone with authority. This strategy may work better in person, though, and is always most successful when done with a polite, but firm, demeanor. If you can find a better deal at a local bank, mention it and you may increase your chance of success.
Don’t feel as if you are stuck with high fees at a current bank. By researching, making smart decisions, and asking for perks, many bank fees can be decreased or eliminated. Do your homework, and reap the benefits of your newfound savings.
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