8 Banking Fees You Should Know About (and How To Avoid Them)
From monthly checking account fees to surprise ATM surcharges, Americans are paying way too much for their banking. If you’ve ever gotten an unexpected bank charge – or a few of them – you know how it feels.
That money could be put to better use, whether it’s to pay for a nice meal or stash away in your savings.
If your New Year’s resolution is to save money, knowing about these eight common banking fees and how to avoid them is a great first step.
1. Monthly Checking Fees
Many checking accounts charge monthly maintenance fees if you don’t meet certain requirements, like maintaining a minimum balance or getting paid by direct deposit. These bank charges average about $10 to $12 per month, according to NerdWallet. On top of that, some financial institutions charge a fee if you want to receive a hard copy of your account statement each month.
The best way to save money on your banking is simply to find a free checking account or one that makes it easy to have the service charge waived. Also, enroll in eStatements for an easier and more secure way to keep tabs on your account while avoiding potential paper statement fees.
2. ATM Fees
If you get cash from an out-of-network ATM, you could rack up extra charges from both the ATM owner and, in many cases, your own financial institution.
Your best bet? Choose a banking partner with a large ATM network, so it’s always easy to find a free ATM. Here at American Heritage, our members have access to more than 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide.
3. Overdraft Fees
If you write a check or make a debit card purchase but don’t have enough money to fund the full transaction, a financial institution’s overdraft program may cover the difference – but you will face a hefty overdraft penalty (averaging nearly $34, according to Bankrate). Not fun, especially since your account is already in the red.
Your best solution is to avoid overdrafts altogether by staying informed about your balance. Set up account alerts to quickly find out if your funds are getting low. If you do overdraft (accidents happen), replenish the funds in your account as soon as possible to avoid additional fees.
Financial institutions may also give you the option to link your checking account to another account or personal line of credit for automatic overdraft protection. A small fee may be charged when money is pulled from another account, but it’s far smaller than a typical overdraft penalty.
Fortunately, credit unions like American Heritage have your financial wellness in mind, which is why we've lowered our overdraft fees in 2022. Now, combined with our Overdraft Protection solutions, you can enjoy more peace of mind when mistakes happen.
4. Returned Check Fee
If you deposit a check to your account and the check bounces – maybe the check was drawn on a closed account or one with insufficient funds – you’ll likely incur a fee. Help protect yourself by depositing checks only from people and businesses you know.
Also, try to keep an extra cash cushion in your account, so that a bounced check doesn’t also lead to an overdraft (which can happen if you’re spending the money from the check that will later be taken out of your account when your financial institution discovers that the check didn’t clear).
5. Excess Transaction Fee
Some savings and money market accounts limit the number of monthly or quarterly withdrawals you can make, with a fee applied for each transaction that exceeds this limit.
Avoid tapping your savings unless you absolutely need to. Use your checking account for day-to-day expenses and let the money in your savings continue to grow.
6. Inactivity Fee
It costs money for financial institutions to keep accounts open, and some may charge an inactivity fee (or dormancy fee) for accounts that are left idle for too long.
Keep track of what accounts you have and where you have them. Maybe you opened a checking account when you lived in another state, but now do all your banking at another financial institution. Consider closing any account that you don’t need or actively use.
7. Account Closing Fee
If you close an account soon after opening it, a financial institution may charge a fee (often around $25). If you decide you don’t want the account you opened, be sure to keep it open at least long enough to avoid this fee (usually 90 to 180 days). Check with the financial institution to see if they charge this fee.
8. Credit Card Fees
Let’s not forget about the other go-to spending account: your credit card. While these cards are undeniably convenient, some include extra costs like an annual fee, balance-transfer fees, or cash-advance fees.
Credit cards and lenders vary widely, so shop around for the best deal. When you choose a not-for-profit financial partner like American Heritage, you’ll find credit card options with lower rates and fewer fees.
Where You Bank Matters
When choosing an account, ask questions and review the financial institution’s website or schedule of fees to understand what charges to expect – and how to avoid them.
If you want to keep more of your money and get more out of your banking relationship, take a closer look at your local credit union. As a member-owned financial institution, American Heritage offers financial products with fewer and lower fees as well as simple, straightforward account requirements. That’s because we’re not here to profit off you – we’re here to empower you.