Once upon a time, bank accounts were a simple, affordable medium to store your money.
Unfortunately, times have changed and financial institutions are really raking in the big bucks from busy consumers who fail to understand just how much their bank account may be costing them. A WalletHub.com study found that the average checking account has 30 fees, while some have more than 50.
Don’t let your hard-earned money go to waste. Here are a few tips to avoid some of the most common bank fees:
1. Avoid overdrawing your account
You may be thinking that opting in for so-called overdraft protection gives you a free pass to overdraw your checking account. You’re sadly mistaken. Many banks will charge you a $35 fee for allowing an overdraft with your debit card to be processed.
Don’t let your $4 purchase at McDonald’s end up costing $39. If you don’t opt in for that overdraft protection, your debit card purchase will be denied at the point of sale. But beware that some transactions do not post immediately, and you may be able to spend money that you do not have regardless of the available balance in your bank account at the time of the purchase.
Another possibility is to sign up for traditional overdraft protection, the amount will be deducted from your savings account or a line of credit, and the fee for doing that will likely be much less than $35.
Better yet: Keep track of how much you have in your account and don’t overspend.
2. Get cash back
When you use an out-of-network ATM, you’re usually charged a fee, which averages $2.60, according to a study by Bankrate. This can add up rather quickly if you make multiple cash withdrawals in a month.
Instead of paying to access your own hard-earned money, obtain cash back at retailers that offer this option, as it is usually available free of charge when you pay for a purchase with your debit card. Also, check your financial institution’s website to locate a list of in-network ATMs that you can use free of charge.
3. Read the fine print
Prior to opening a bank account, pay close attention to the terms and conditions so the “gotchas” won’t sneak up on you.
Most checking accounts come with a monthly fee unless certain criteria are met. For example, Bank of America’s MyAccess checking account charges a $12 monthly maintenance fee unless you are a student under 23 years of age, maintain an average daily balance of $1,500 or have direct deposits of $2,500 or more per month.
That amounts to $144 annually if you fail to meet their standards. So it’s best to find a bank that offers checking and savings accounts at little or no cost to you with no strings attached.
4. Request online statements
Did you know that some banks will even charge you if you request to have your monthly statements delivered by mail? I recently discovered that my bank was one of them. Fortunately, I despise massive quantities of paper mail, so I selected the online option when I opened the account.
Some banks charge $2 whenever a customer requests a paper statement.
5. Implement account alerts
This application can be installed on most electronic devices, and will notify you once your available balance falls below a minimum threshold that you select. If you receive an overdraft alert and the transaction is still processing, you may be able to make a quick deposit or transfer before the transaction posts so you will not incur a fee.
6. Have an account with an online bank
Online banks have only a fraction of the overhead that brick-and-mortar locations possess, enabling them to pass savings on to the consumer in the form of fewer fees and higher interest on savings.
7. Maintain a cushion
Although the interest earned on checking account balances is typically lower than that of savings accounts, it’s always a good idea to have a little wiggle room in case of minor emergencies. If you find it difficult to scrape up a little extra change each month, check out these simple money-saving tips.
Over time, bank fees can really add up. The good news is that they are often negotiable after the fact. Just remember to be pleasant if you plan to call in and request that fees be removed from your account.
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