Quit Whining About Checking Account Fees and Worry about All These Others You’re Paying

Posted in Cents in the City , Checking Accounts • February 21, 2013

checking account fees

I get it – checking account fees are bad. Big banks are nickel-and-diming their customers in every way possible to improve revenue, and we shouldn’t stand for it. However, though there is a myriad of fees banks charge their customers every day, it’s checking account fees that have taken the brunt of the backlash ever since “Occupy Wall Street” became common household vocabulary. And frankly, I’m kind of over it.

We shouldn’t have to pay $10 a month to own an account that earns .00001% interest, but we do need to refocus our attention.

I’m willing to bet checking account fees make up just a fraction of the total amount in bank charges you pay every month. Sure, the average fee disclosure may be 69 pages long, but there are plenty of fees banking customers are knowingly paying without so much as batting an eye. I’m certainly guilty of it.

So until you become more engaged in your own financial world and start paying attention to the many ways you’re willingly giving up hard-earned money to bank profits, please, quit whining about checking account fees and worry about all these others you’ve been paying.

Three Major Bank Fees You Should Stop Incurring

#1. Out-of-Network ATM fees

In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for me to visit ATMs in restaurants and bars, because I didn’t feel like making a special trip to Chase and pulling out cash for the night. Sure each transaction would cost $2-$3, but what’s a couple bucks to avoid the hassle of visiting the bank?

What I didn’t consider, however, was that in addition to paying fees at the ATM, Chase would then later charge me an additional $4 for using an out-of-network ATM. Of course, as long as I didn’t review my bank statements, I wouldn’t ever see these charges — out of sight, out of mind. Even so, whether or not I chose to acknowledge these fees, the fact was that I was unnecessarily paying around $7 every weekend just for the privilege of gaining access to my own money. What a waste!

CNN Money reports that recent studies find ATM surcharges have risen 4 percent over the last year to a record high of $2.50, while bank fees charged for out-of-network ATMs increased by 11 percent to $1.57. That means on average, bank customers are paying an extra $4.07 to pull money from another bank’s ATM; the worst part is they don’t have to — ever.

#2. Peer-to-Peer Transfer Fees

I have no problem paying a little extra for added convenience, but the idea can definitely be taken too far. Case in point: Peer-to-peer payment systems.

Commonly known as P2P, these payment services allow users to send each other money via their mobile devices or e-mail addresses. Paypal is probably the most well known, but similar services like Popmoney and PaySimple have been appearing. Bank-specific P2P services are also becoming more common, like clearXchange used by big banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

The thing is some services are free, while others charge fees to send or receive money. Popmoney, for example, charges $.95 to send a payment.

I’ve been a long-time Chase QuickPay user despite the less than ideal service I’ve experienced in the past. That’s because the service is free, and for the most part, it gets the job done. That’s why I can’t understand why anyone would pay to transfer money to a friend or family member instead of using a free service, or, you know, just pulling out some cash.

#3. Card Swipe Fees

Perhaps you use your debit card at the gas station, which costs an extra $.45. No big deal. Then you visit the local convenience store to grab a snack, and once again have to pay to swipe. A few cents here and there doesn’t seem like much, but it certainly adds up over the course of the month.

As of January 27, expect to pay more of these fees if you continue going cashless. They’re on the rise due to a new law that makes the practice of passing credit card transaction fees onto customers legal in 40 states. That’s right — it used to be against the law for merchants to do this, and still is in 10 states. Now are you angry you’ve been paying these fees?

Card swipe fees are entirely avoidable by paying cash at locations that charge them. Even better, in addition to avoiding fees, you also lower the chance of becoming the victim of debit card scams by using this risky form of payment less often.

Fees are a growing problem in the banking industry, but a big reason why banks continue to charge them is because they know you will pay them. Take a close look at the fees you’ve been charged over the past few months and devise a plan to stop paying them once and for all.

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