5 Ways You’re Throwing Money Away on Banking Fees

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People today have more places to put their money than ever before, and financial institutions have been forced to slash or even eliminate some of their fees to compete. That’s good news for the little guy, but far too many people still fall victim to bank charges that could have been avoided.

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Here are the most common ways that banks make you pay to use your own money, and how to keep that cash where it belongs — in your account.

Out-of-Network ATM Fees

If you’re in a pinch for cash and you’re not near one of your bank’s ATMs, you should expect to pay between $2-$3 to make an out-of-network withdrawal, according to recent GOBankingRates data. It goes up to $5 per transaction if you’re out of the country.

Consider using a bank that reimburses out-of-network ATM fees, but remember, it’s up to you to keep track of the reimbursement limit. Ally Bank, for example, reimburses out-of-network ATM surcharges up to $10 per statement cycle. 

Make Your Money Work for You

To stay within the limit, avoid getting cash at places that are notorious for raking their customers over the coals. ATMs at casinos, for example, have surcharges up to $9.99. Stop instead at places like the Wawa convenience store chain, which lets anyone use their ATMs for free whether they buy anything or not.

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Monthly Maintenance Fees

Monthly maintenance fees are usually associated with business and personal checking accounts, and even some savings accounts, according to Credit Karma, not products like certificates of deposits. According to Business Insider, these charges generally range between $5-$12 per month, but they can go all the way up to $30 a month, depending on the account type. Different types of accounts generally have different fees. 

In many cases, you can waive the charge by meeting certain criteria, usually maintaining a minimum balance or making a minimum number of debit card purchases.

The alternative is to switch to one of the banks that now offer truly free accounts. Forbes recommends Axos Bank Rewards Checking, Discover Cashback Debit Checking and PenFed Credit Union Access America Checking.

Bank Transfers

Unlike ATM fees and monthly maintenance fees, you can’t do much to avoid bank transfer fees, also called wire transfer fees. The best solution, of course, is to avoid making wire transfers altogether — but it might be the only option for some large transactions like closing on a home.

Make Your Money Work for You

According to Forbes, banks must disclose their transfer fees, which are based on state laws and other factors — and the charges can stack up. For example, you might have to pay a fee to the banks on both the sending and receiving ends of the transfer in some cases.

Online banks are the exception — most don’t charge fees for inbound transfers, according to Forbes, but the median traditional bank charges $15 and credit unions charge $4. For outbound transfers, the median fee is $25.

Bounced Checks

Writing a check you can’t cover is the oldest financial faux pas in the book. If you do it, it will cost you — most of the time. In January, Bank of America announced that it was rolling back its overdraft fees and dropping its bounced check fees altogether. According to NBC News, it was part of a push by big banks to reduce the slew of fees that they have always charged customers for spending more than their accounts can cover.

Make Your Money Work for You

It’s called an insufficient funds fee, and despite the trend, they’re still standard at most banks. Business Insider says that you can expect to be hit with a fee of between $10-$36 if you bounce a check.

Foreign Transactions

If your bank is in the U.S., but you swipe your credit or debit card overseas, don’t be surprised if you’re hit with a foreign transaction fee. Many banks and credit card providers offer accounts that waive foreign transaction fees, but overseas surcharges are hardly extinct. 

In most cases, you’ll pay between 1% and 5% of the purchase, according to Forbes. In some cases, American Express, Visa, Mastercard and other payment processing networks tack on international fees of their own, which you pay in addition to any fee that your issuer might charge. 

All overseas transactions, from things you buy at stores to meals you eat at restaurants, are subject to a fee, even when the price is denominated in your home currency. Even overseas ATM withdrawals can be hit with a foreign transaction fee, so make sure you get a card that waives those fees if you plan to travel abroad.

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.
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