Bank fees are annoying, they are expensive and they seem impossible to avoid. In fact, a study from Wallethub found that the average checking account has approximately 30 (30!) fees associated with it. You can’t talk your way out of all of them, but you can certainly get some reversed — especially if you are a good customer who rarely breaks the “rules.”
Here are five bank fees you can get waived and some tips on how to negotiate the deal.
1. Account Maintenance
Many banks are tightening the reigns on free checking accounts. The fees for checking accounts are usually minimal — as little as $5 a month — but most banks offer ways to avoid them. If you notice a monthly or maintenance fee on your account, call the bank and ask for a reversal, as well as some advice on how you can avoid that charge in the future. If your bank doesn’t offer free checking accounts, you might want to take your business to a competitor. The free checking account still exists — you just might have to look hard to find one.
Overdrafts occur when you don’t have enough money in your account to cover a transaction and the bank transfers the money from either your savings or a line of credit to cover it (referred to as overdraft protection). If you don’t have overdraft protection, the bank might “cover” the charge, leaving your account in the negative, which often results in more fees. Overdrafts are one of the most expensive and common fees consumers pay, with an average of $225 in fees per year as of 2013, resulting in $31.8 billion in revenue for banks, according to Moebs $ervices.
You probably won’t be able to get this fee reversed if you regularly overdraw — that makes it much harder to accommodate the request. If you want to try to get an overdraft fee reversed, call your bank right away or go into a branch. Explain how it happened and promise you won’t do it again. If your account history is good there’s a high chance the institution will be willing to reimburse you.
It’s really best to just avoid these fees completely by meticulously tracking your account activity. Or you can try opting out of the coverage completely. That might seem scary, but a study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that people who opted out of overdraft protection reduced those fees by more than $450.
3. Paper Statements
This is an example of a justifiable bank fee: It’s much more practical and environmentally friendly to sign up for electronic statements. Most online banking services give you direct access to your statements whenever you need them. If you are being charged for paper statements, call your bank and ask them to reverse the fee if you sign up for electronic statements.
4. Replacement Card
Some banks charge customers for replacement ATM or credit cards. These fees are usually around $5, but can run an additional $30 more if you also need the replacement sent via rushed mail. If it’s the first time you’ve lost your card or you’ve been a victim of identity theft, then you should be able to get the fee reversed. If you are a habitual card-loser, it’s going to be a little tougher.
5. Balance Transfer
Transferring your credit card balance to a new card with a low or 0% interest rate can save you money — unless the new bank charges you a balance transfer fee. These fees can run anywhere from 3 to 5 percent, which could eliminate any kind of savings you might have been hoping to gain. Banks want your credit card debt — they can make a lot of money off it — so you should be able to get this waived. If not, there are plenty of other banks waiting to line up and offer you a better deal.
Tips for Negotiating Bank Fees
Go into a branch.
If you can, visit your local branch and talk to a bank manager. Getting a fee reversed is basically asking for a favor — it’s a lot harder to say no when the person is looking you in the eye.
Remind them why you matter.
If you have been a customer for a long time, keep a lot of money with the bank or use a lot of their products, by all means — talk it up. Customer retention is low with banks and it costs them a lot to recoup each customer they lose. “Bank fees are not that hard to get waived, especially if the bank realizes they have something to lose,” John Ulzheimer, credit expert at CreditSesame.com, told Time. “Many banks don’t want the confrontation… that could result in losing a customer.”
No one likes a complainer. Call your bank and calmly explain the situation. Be polite and ask for help — a good attitude goes a long way. Even if the fee was caused by a bank error, there is no sense in taking out your frustration on the customer service agent who just happened to be assigned to your call. Your chances of success will be much better if you approach the situation with kindness.
Photo credit: Anders Adermark