After you've found ways to avoid monthly and annual fees for your checking account, eliminating all other possible bank fees means you'll have to pay close attention to your accounts and how the rules and fees change over time. Use the following tips to help avoid those additional charges:
- Know the rules and fees for your account. It might seem like a boring read, but take time to highlight or underline any rules or fees you might find challenging to avoid.
- When the bank notifies you of changes to your account, make sure you know how those changes affect you.
- Keep an eye on your account balance each day, and know how much you'll have left after the bank processes any outstanding checks or debits.
- Don't make any payments unless you know they will be covered. Nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees and overdraft fees are some of the more expensive charges you can receive.
- If you have designated a savings account as an overdraft account, stay ahead of the bank and make any necessary transfers when your checking account balance is low. If you transfer the money yourself, you can avoid the bank's overdraft protection fee.
- If you need to maintain a minimum balance to avoid a monthly fee, make sure you always have at least that amount in your account.
- Don't get stuck using other banks' ATMs to withdraw cash, since you'll pay ATM fees at both ends of the transaction.
- Don't lose your ATM card. You may be charged for each replacement card.
- Use the Internet instead of the phone for customer service. Some banks charge a fee for customer service by phone. Look for a Web form or e-mail address instead.
- If you have a good history with your bank, shop around and then negotiate comparable -- or better -- rates and features with your bank. They may be willing to strike a deal to keep your business.
At a glance, it looks like you can avoid bank fees if you're diligent. However, the next page describes one important exception.