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7 Ways to avoid paying unnecessary banking fees

Who loves paying banking fees? You’d be hard-pressed to find someone to raise their hand when asked that question, but asking if they hate them is much easier. If someone asked you which bank fee gives you the most grief, you might think it's those ATM fees for using another bank's money machine. You might think it's the monthly maintenance fee. Some people are fed up with the insufficient funds (NSF) fee.

 

There are also account fees for not maintaining a minimum balance or you might despise the foreign transaction fee if you travel abroad.

 

If you're like most people, it's difficult to pinpoint your least favorite account fee – you'd like for there to be no bank fees at all! We feel you!

 

The best way you can avoid bank fees is twofold: one, get an account that doesn't charge most of those fees. Two, stay on top of managing your accounts.

 

We have tips for how to limit fees — or in some cases, eliminate them altogether. Here are some simple tips to keep you far, far away from unnecessary banking fees.

 

1. Get a free checking account

 

Sound too easy? It's not. At Kasasa, free checking accounts are our bread and butter. We created the Kasasa Cash Back® account because we believe you shouldn’t have to pay a monthly maintenance fee. That's just crazy.

 

In fact, did you know that the nice kids at Wells Fargo charge between $5 to $35 per month just to have a checking account with them? Are you paying them for the privilege? It's your money — they should be paying you.

 

Oh, we do that, too, by the way. Kasasa accounts come with rewards depending on how you prefer to manage your checking account. You can get cash back (it's kind of right there in the name), or you can earn interest on your balance. Our Kasasa Cash® account pays interest — and not with a minimum balance, but on whatever you have in your account.

 

Honestly, this is a no-brainer. Doing away with monthly maintenance fees is the easiest way to just say no to bank fees.

 

2. Get ATM withdrawal fees refunded

 

A free checking account doesn’t save you from getting charged an ATM fee from another bank's ATM.

 

Oh wait – yes it will!

 

Both Kasasa checking accounts include ATM withdrawal fee refunds.* Yes, there are some specifics you should explore and understand, but if you are getting cash every single day, there might be better tools for you than hitting an ATM daily, like using your debit card.

 

But if you're like most Americans, there are times when you want cash and aren't at your own bank or credit union. If you cannot rely on your network, rely on your checking account to come through for you in a pinch.

 

3. Trust your debit card

 

If you prefer cash because you don't trust the security of your debit card, you should get to know your debit card. Banks and credit unions include chips in your Visa® or Mastercard® debit card, but also retailers are required to offer chip payment options as of 2021.

 

But many retailers are skipping right past chips and going straight to tap-to-pay. Your debit card is pretty clever and safe. You should give it a chance to shine.

While you're at it, trust yourself, too. Use your PIN when you're asked for it — that's for your own protection.

 

4. Keep an eye on your bottom line

 

One of the best ways to avoid bank fees, especially those dreaded NSF fees, is to be aware of how much money you have in your bank account. That sounds pretty obvious, and yes it is, but when you are swiping right and left and not adding up a little debit here and a little debit there, it's a lot easier to find your balance running low.

 

Not to worry, though; there are solutions, and your bank or credit union has them. So does your mobile app. Many debit cards allow you to set spending limits so you don't splurge without your account keeping tabs on you.

 

You can also set up notifications that tell you exactly what your balance is. You don't even have to log on — it can message you. Yep, your account can greet you each day with a reminder of exactly how many dollars and how many cents you have. Do we always wish it were more? Yes, but just having your checking account balance top of mind will help keep you from running on financial empty.

 

5. That's what friends are for

 

Your checking account has a nearby friend — your savings account — to pick up the slack in the hope-it-never-happens event that your account unexpectedly runs dry. Talk with your bank or credit union. There are overdraft protection programs to help take the bite out of shortfalls by tapping into your savings account. If this is a possible worry for you, sign up for the service.

 

An even better option: use those notifications from your online banking or mobile app. Get an alert when your account balance drops below a certain amount, log on, and transfer money. Done. You just saved yourself an NSF fee. As of 2020, the average overdraft fee was $33.47 – who's got that kind of spare money to give to their bank?

 

Whenever possible, set up automatic payments for your regularly occurring bills. The payments will be withdrawn from your checking account for loans, utilities, insurance, credit cards, and any other monthly bills you may have. You can set up exactly which date the money leaves your account, meaning you'll be able to plan ahead and track the funds going in and out of your account.

 

6. Automate your money

 

If you already use direct deposit from your employer, you can check this box. Having money arrive in your checking account without having to visit a branch or make a mobile deposit simplifies your money flow. But what about the money going out?

 

Automating your bill payments and transfers (including money you're saving in your emergency fund) makes sure payments get made on time. Granted, this is less of a bank fee and more of a late-payment fee from your cable company, but a fee is a fee and your bank account can help you eliminate these.

 

If your balance fluctuates enough that those automated payments are not on top of your mind (oh, wait, was that deduction today?), think about using your alerts to confirm you have sufficient funds. These are similar to your notifications but are prompted by money movement or activity on your bank account.

 

7. Use the tools in your toolbox

 

Yes, it's convenient to use your debit card to set up automatic payments for everything from rent to streaming service to your cell phone. If that works best for you, go with it. But keep in mind, your online banking can keep all your bills, your account numbers, and your payment history all in one place. You only have to remember one password and you can pay every bill all at once, including advance scheduling payments. Your online banking is also more secure than almost any other website you may visit.

 

Here's another great fee-eliminating tool: Most financial institutions will charge you for receiving a paper statement in the mail. Why mess with that? You can download and print your own statements, often days ahead of when you receive a statement via snail mail. That's one more fee you can eliminate (and save a tree too).

 

How do you find the best free checking account? That's easy. Use the best tools, from the best community bank or credit union. Depending on your banking behavior, especially for international travelers, you may not ever be able to eliminate every checking account fee. But avoiding the big ones — especially the recurring ones — will keep more of your money with you. Be proud of your money and hang on to as much of it as you can.

 

*Qualifications, limits, and other requirements apply. See financial institution for details. 

Tags: My finances, Rewards banking, Banking

About Kasasa

We believe your money should do more... for you and your community. Founded in 2003, Kasasa is a financial and technology services company working to help empower consumers to take control of their finances and be proud of their money by banking locally with community banks and credit unions in your neighborhood, that you know and trust.

These local institutions have roots in their communities, care about people over profits, and are actively invested in local businesses to help keep the economy strong (unlike some of the megabanks we could name).

We believe you shouldn't have to choose between the best banking products, the best customer experience, or keeping your money local, where it can do more good. We've created ethical banking products and partnered exclusively with community banks and credit unions. So you can have it all.

Kasasa accounts are available at community financial institutions around the country. Find one near you at Kasasa.com to get free checking that pays cash rewards, the only loan with Take-Backs, and more. All while keeping your money in the community, so you can always be proud of your money.