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A few weeks ago I wrote about how to get the best savings rates for your emergency fund (that you should definitely have). Writing that made me realize that many folks don’t even think about the cost of keeping their money in a bank in general. Remember that keeping $1000 in a normal bank would make you a whopping 10¢ a year in interest. Because of low returns on your money you need to be working hard to not be paying the bank to keep your money!! Even one ATM fee a year and you’ve lost money on this deal…
What are some banking fees that you can avoid?
Monthly Account Fees
This is very 1980. Most banks/credit unions offer free checking and savings accounts and you need to make sure you are in one. Most of these do not have minimum balance requirements. If your bank doesn’t offer free accounts, then it may be time to look elsewhere… Pulling up a few different major banks I found that many don’t offer “free” checking but if you have at least one direct deposit a month your fee is waived. Make sure if you are in this type of account that you remember what is required. Changing jobs and not immediately setting up your direct deposit could be costly.
Things that may be required to maintain free checking: balance requirements, minimum transactions per month, or direct deposit per month.
Bounced Check Fees
Also called Non-Sufficient Fund Fees (NFS), this is a huge $25-$35 fee every time a check bounces. The simple solution here… balance your check book regularly! If you use your debit card a lot make sure to pull out your bank register and enter those items as soon as you make them so you don’t forget.
As long as you stay at your banks ATMs you should always be fine, but the minute you use a machine that isn’t with your bank (or your network for credit unions) the fees start adding in. Most ATM fees are $2.50 to $3 per transaction. This doesn’t include a fee that the actual ATM may charge you as well! To avoid these fees all together select cash back when you make in-store purchases at grocery stores etc. There are no fees associated with cash bank when the transaction is already being processed.
Lost Card Fee
You may not realize that losing your wallet means fees too. Most major banks have a card replacement fee starting at $5. If you need the card rushed to you that could be up to $20 in fees. This one fee most banks will waive though if you complain. If your wallet was stolen definitely refuse to pay any fees for new cards. The banks tend to waive this without much fuss. If you lose your card monthly, that may not be as easy for you.
Paper Statement Fee
This one may not get most folks, but if you are particularly bad at balancing accounts or wait to big things till tax time, asking for statements past a few months back will have added fees. If you have selected the long touted “paperless statements” then you are at the whim of the bank on how long you have access to statements. While I’m all for saving the world, having a paper statement a year or two from now when you are being audited for something will be a blessing. Grab a three ring binder and put all statements in their each month. You only need 3 years of records, but you do need them and want them without added fees!
Note: Some banks now are trying to charge fees monthly if you don’t choose the paperless option. If your bank refuses to waive this fee, then you can decide to either leave or make a habit of printing your monthly statement offline yourself.
Returned Mail Fee
If you move, by all means please tell your bank first! You may not be charged to send paper statements but if any of them get sent to the bank unable to deliver then many will charge $5-$6 as a return mail fee. They blame this on potential identify theft issues that can happen with return mail and that they have to work harder because of it.
When you run out of checks you will have to pay something to get more, but you should never pay the banks rates. Banks charge insane amounts for checks!! Head online and find deals on checks that will come out to $7-$10 for 200-400 checks shipped. The bank would have cost over $30-$40 for that many checks.
Are there any fees that you’ve been hit with that I missed?
Trying to avoid any fees at all could mean a chunk of savings for some folks, but we definitely don’t want to be paying the bank to hold our money. If you want to take out a loan, then you can pay them… but not until then!