Avoiding Bank Fees: What to Do Now

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If you’re like most Americans, you’re saving more these days. But that warm and fuzzy feeling you get knowing that your money is right where you left it might be inhibited by unwelcome fees.

Lots of us have had the shock of seeing fees nip away at our nest egg. Take these steps now to avoid fees:

1. Read the fine print.
Make sure you understand the terms of your accounts. Maybe you never had to think about dipping below minimum balance before, but now that you're not adding as much to your stockpile, knowing the bare minimum your account needs could save you from expensive fees. Ask at your bank branch or call customer service.

2. Beware of the overdraft. If you write checks for more than you have in your account (maybe a deposit doesn’t clear as quickly as you expect), your bank might, as a “courtesy,” let your checks go through – and charge you for its generosity. Sometimes, this largesse can cost you as much as $40 per check.

3. Tell your bank not to be so courteous. You can opt out of this overdraft privilege entirely (but your checks will bounce if you’re overdrawn).

4. Even better, link your checking and savings accounts. This way, if you don’t have enough in checking, the money will come out of savings. As an added precaution, ask for overdraft protection through a line of credit. Then, if you’re overdrawn, your check will clear, you’ll get a bill and the interest will be a lot less than $40.

5. Ask for leniency. If you do see an unexpected fee on your statement (and you are looking over your statement every month, right?), ask the bank if the fee can be removed – as a courtesy. Then take the steps necessary to make sure the fees don’t hit your statement again.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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