- You have a choice of many different financial institutions to open a bank account with.
- Some banks impose more fees than others, however.
- Fees to avoid include account maintenance and paying for personal checks.
Don't pay more for banking than is necessary.
You need a bank account to manage many financial transactions, but they can be expensive if you're hit with a lot of costs for your account. To make sure you don't pay more than necessary, be on the lookout for these common bank fees to avoid.
1. Account maintenance
Account maintenance fees are charged just for having your account open. They usually total a few dollars per month, but this can add up. You are often given the chance to avoid them by fulfilling certain requirements, such as having money directly deposited into your account.
If you can meet the requirements for a fee waiver, then account maintenance fees aren't the end of the world. But in general you do not want to commit to paying a monthly fee forever just to be a customer of a particular bank, unless the financial institution offers some other very generous perks to make up for this unnecessary cost.
2. Minimum balance
Minimum balance fees are charged if you do not maintain a certain balance in your account. You'll need to know how they calculate your balance for these purposes. For example, some banks look at your average daily balance so you need to keep money in your account steadily throughout the month.
If you aren't confident you can meet a bank's minimum balance requirements, don't open an account that has this fee. You'll also want to make sure you're OK with tying up so much money in your checking account that you could potentially do other things with.
ATM fees are charged when you use an ATM outside your bank's network. You could be charged by both your bank and by the foreign ATM. Look for a bank that offers a big ATM network to avoid these fees. Or find a bank that reimburses you for using out-of-network ATMs.
Overdraft fees are charged if you try to access more money from your account than you have. For example, if you have $20 in the account and try to use your debit card to make a $25 purchase, you could get hit with an overdraft fee. These fees are very expensive. Aim to keep a cushion in your account to avoid accidentally letting your balance drop too low, or consider using a bank that does not impose overdraft fees.
5. Returned item fees
Returned item fees, or non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees, are charged when you bounce a check and it has to be returned without being cashed. You will be charged by your bank and the store where you wrote the check often charges you too. These fees are also expensive, so keep track of your check book and try to keep a cushion in your account to avoid these charges.
6. Foreign transactions
Banks often charge a fee when you use your debit card to make charges or access money overseas. This can add to the expense of your trip so find out if your bank will charge you. If it will, consider taking a credit card abroad instead to make purchases, as many credit cards don't charge foreign transaction fees.
7. Transfer fees
Most banks charge a wire transfer fee if you move money electronically using certain methods. Find out when and how this fee is charged. If you are required to transfer money using a wire transfer, there may be nothing you can do about this fee if your bank imposes it.
8. Personal checks
Finally, your bank may charge you for ordering personal checks. You do not have to order checks through your bank, though -- you can get your account and routing number and order from anywhere. Some banks also offer free checks.
By making sure you consider all these fees when opening an account, you can minimize what you pay for your banking relationship and keep more money in your own pocket.
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