How to Avoid Bank Fees

Don’t lose your hard-earned cash to bank fees.

Banks made $33.3 billion in 2016 from overdraft fees alone, according to The Wall Street Journal. Combine that figure with other bank fees and you’ll see how fast they can add up — and how much money you can waste on them.

Instead of allowing these financial institutions to keep your hard-earned cash, take the necessary steps to avoid paying fees altogether. Find out what your bank tacks on to your account in fees and how to avoid paying those bank fees.

Common Bank Fees

Here’s a list of the nine most common bank fees account holders pay. To avoid these bank fees, consider opening an account with one of the best banks, which are often fee-free.

Review these fees to see if you’re paying them unnecessarily:

  1. Maintenance fees: Several banks charge a monthly maintenance fee just for having an account. Bank of America charges $5 each month for the Bank of America Regular Savings account, but you can get the fee waived if you keep a minimum daily balance of $300, link its Interest Checking account to your savings or sign up for the Preferred Rewards program.
  2. Overdraft fees: Also known as an insufficient funds fee, banks charge overdraft fees when you write a check or use your debit card for an amount that exceeds your account balance. TD Bank charges its account holders $35 when they overdraw their accounts by $5. To get out of paying overdraft fees, opt out of overdraft protection at your bank — the transaction will be denied, but you won’t be charged. In addition, you can always call your bank and ask for a “waive fee” — if you’re a good customer, you might get it.
  3. Wire transfer fees: Whether you need to send or receive money through your bank, you’ll likely be charged a wire transfer fee. Sturdy Bank charges between $15 and $40 for wire transfers, depending on whether they’re foreign or domestic. Avoid this fee by using a different form of payment like PayPal or by sending a check.
  4. ATM fees: Most banks charge a non-network fee if you withdraw cash from another bank’s ATM. Comerica Bank, for example, charges $2 for transactions at non-Comerica ATMs. Avoid using an out-of-network ATM or switch to a financial institution that gives you ATM rebates. Alliant Credit Union, for example, will provide up to $20 each month in rebates for non-Alliant ATM fees.
  5. Excessive savings account withdrawals fees: Savings accounts sometimes come with excessive withdrawal fees. Chase Bank allows up to six withdrawals per month and any transactions that exceed that number incur a $5 fee. To avoid paying the fee you must keep a $15,000 balance in your account. Plan ahead so you don’t make more than the allowed number of savings account transactions in a month.
  6. Minimum balance fees: When your account balance falls below the minimum amount set by your bank, you can be charged a fee. Typically, that fee comes in the form of a monthly maintenance fee, which is waived as long as you don’t go below the required minimum balance. SunTrust’s Balanced Banking account adds a $12 fee if your account falls below $3,000 at any time during the month. If you don’t think you can meet the minimum monthly requirement, look for a bank with no minimum demands.
  7. Paper statement fees: You’ll likely pay a fee to get that all-important bank statement via mail. TD Bank keeps its charge low at $1, but you can eliminate it entirely by going green and signing up for electronic statements. Many financial institutions offer this kind of incentive, so check with yours.
  8. Foreign transaction fees: Shopping in a foreign country with a U.S. debit or credit card can result in your bank charging you a foreign transaction fee. Wells Fargo, for instance, charges 3 percent of your foreign transaction amount. Some banks don’t charge foreign transaction fees, so if you plan on going abroad, consider signing up for an account at a bank that doesn’t.
  9. Account closure fees: Some financial institutions charge an early account closure fee. PNC, for example, charges you $25 if you close your account within 180 days of opening. The only way to avoid this fee is to wait until the designated period of time has passed — or stick with a bank that has no early termination fees.

Check Out: 5 Best Banks for No Fees

How to Avoid Bank Fees

Once you understand how each of these fees works you’ll be able to take measures to avoid them. So if you’re allowed six withdrawals and you’ve already made four, you’ll know you can make only two more before you have to pay a fee.

If you can, stick with fee-free banks. Build an emergency fund you can use as a cushion to keep your bank accounts above the minimum requirements — and link that account to your checking to protect you from overdrafts. Finally, monitor your bank account regularly and set up electronic alerts so you always know where you stand financially.

Up Next: 13 Banks Offering Free Checking With No Minimum Balance

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