Nobody likes getting hit with fees, especially when it comes to checking accounts. The good news is that there are ways to avoid many of the common checking account fees. Here are some tips for doing just that.
Always ensure you have sufficient funds in your account
before writing a check or making an electronic transaction. This may sound like a no-brainer, but if you don’t keep a close eye on your available balance, it’s very easy to overdraw, or overdraft, your account. If you don’t have enough money in your account to cover a transaction you could be slapped with fees such as overdraft fees, and insufficient funds fees (commonly referred to as NSF, or nonsufficient funds fees). You’ll likely be charged for each individual transaction made while your account is overdrawn. These types of fees can add up fast, and each individual charge can reach $35 or more. Signing up for balance alerts, either by text or email, can help keep you up-to-date on your available balance, and help you avoid these types of fees.
If your bank allows it, another line of defense against overdraft and NSF fees is to link another bank account or credit card to your checking account to help cover any accidental overdrafts
. You’ll likely still have to pay an overdraft protection transfer fee if you overdraw your account, but that type of fee is generally lower than the overdraft or insufficient funds fees you’d be charged otherwise.
And whenever possible, try to make sure you have enough funds in your account to cover the amount of any check you’re depositing
. If you don’t, and you deposit a check that bounces, a fee can be assessed against you. These fees are typically called returned deposited item fees and can range anywhere from $5 to $30 depending on the bank.
Don’t use ATMs outside of your bank’s network
. Any time you use an ATM that isn’t associated with your bank, or your checking account, you open yourself up to potential fees – both from your bank, and the bank operating the ATM. Some banks offer checking accounts with more liberal ATM policies, such as monthly rebates of other bank’s ATM fees, or access to a network of ATMs outside of the bank. BankFive for example offers an eAccess Checking account
that allows customers free access to all BankFive ATMs, as well as ATMs within the SUM Network
. With an eAccess Checking account, BankFive will also never impose an ATM service fee, and will refund other banks’ surcharges up to $10 per statement cycle.
And keep in mind that many times, even just checking your balance at an ATM that’s not affiliated with your bank can result in fees
. This type of fee, commonly referred to as a balance inquiry fee, can usually be avoided by simply checking your account balance online or through your bank’s mobile app instead. And don’t lose your debit or ATM card
. Some financial institutions will charge a fee for card replacement, and that fee could go up if you want expedited delivery of your new card.
If you’re paying a monthly fee to keep your checking account active, consider switching to an account that doesn’t have a monthly maintenance fee
. It’s common for these types of monthly maintenance fees to be waived if you maintain a minimum balance, or make a minimum number of deposits each month, but it can be tiresome to make sure you’re meeting all the different criteria every month. These days there are plenty of checking accounts available
that don’t have a monthly maintenance fee to begin with.
Looking to dispute a transaction in your account, or look into an old transaction? Keep in mind that enlisting your bank’s help to examine your account’s history could result in additional fees, called research fees
. For example, this type of fee could be levied if you ask your bank to determine when a particular check was cashed. Be sure to check with your bank about any associated fees before requesting this type service, which is usually charged at an hourly rate.
If you need new checks, keep in mind that you’ll likely have to pay for them, usually by the box. However, you can avoid the need for checks by paying your bills online, or using a peer-to-peer payment service
to send money electronically to family and friends.
No matter what type of checking account you have, or where you bank, chances are there are fees associated with your account. It’s a good idea to get an updated list of them so you know exactly what to avoid to how.