Your bank might charge you for getting cash. It might charge you for writing checks. It might charge you for getting paper statements in the mail, talking to a teller, or even doing nothing at all - say, if your account balance doesn’t meet a specified minimum.
Fortunately, by keeping your eyes open and doing some research, you can reduce your bank’s ability to slap you with fees. Here are some tips for avoiding bank fees.
Know What to Expect Up Front
First, be an informed banker: you’ll want to find out what the fees for your particular account are. If you tossed away the fine print that came when you opened your account, call your bank and request a new description (often called a “schedule”) of associated fees. You can also often find this information online: Bank of America, for example, allows you to compare fees across different types of checking accounts. Bank fees vary by state, so make sure to get the schedule of fees for your particular area.
Taking Issue With Fees
If you have an issue with the fees associated with your bank account, you have several options. One is to complain to the bank directly. If you’ve been with the bank a while, you may be able to get a one-time waiver of a fee you didn’t previously realize existed. Another option may be to add money to your account. Many banks charge smaller fees (or waive them) if you agree to maintain a higher minimum balance. (This also works in reverse: the less money you keep in your account, the more likely you may be subject to unexpected fees.) Typically, you can spread the minimum balance across several accounts, including savings or money-market accounts you may have open with the bank.
Move Your Money
Finally, you might switch to another bank offering more favorable banking terms. Multiple tools exist online to help you compare bank fees, such as Bankrate’s list of checking accounts. Check out potential banks online on Web sites such as The Consumerist, where users can lodge complaints about deceptive practices. Obtain a copy of prospective banks’ fee schedules. You might call customer service for a bank to inquire about any fees that especially concern you. Don’t forget to check out local credit unions, as well.
You can reduce the amount you spend on fees by knowing when your bank will charge fees for account usage. If using a competitor’s ATM to withdraw cash results in a fee with your bank, for instance, you might pursue places to get cash where no fee is charged.
Your diligence in knowing your bank’s terms for your accounts may very well help you save some real money!