Bank Bleeding You Dry? How To Avoid Every Fee

BankDry_slide01Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
If you don’t normally keep an eye on your checking account, you may be in for some surprises when you do take a look. U.S. banks sucked $34 billion out of their depositors in 2012 through fees, according to the latest estimates from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
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So, how much has your bank siphoned out of your account lately? Most likely a lot, if you’re among the one in four Americans with overdrafts. These transactions alone produced about $32 billion in fees for banks and credit unions last year, according to research from Moebs Services, a consulting company in Lake Bluff, Illinois. Overdraft fees averaged $28 at credit unions to $35 at big banks last year, according to Moeb. The consumer bureau estimates those who have overdrafts pay from about $150 to more than $300 a year in resulting fees to financial institutions. While these levels put overdraft costs in a league of their own, other fees can still strain your wallet and often can be avoided. Stay on the lookout for these five.
BankDry_slide02Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Maintenance Fees
Some banks charge monthly maintenance fees of $12 or more. Multiply that by 12 and you’ve laid out enough to pay for a couple of dinners out. And what did you get for it? Often, you can avoid this fee by taking simple steps. At Wells Fargo, for instance, you can dodge maintenance fees by keeping a minimum daily balance of at least $1,500 in your account or by having paychecks of at least $500 electronically deposited into it each month. If you’re being hit with a maintenance fee, ask your bank about how to avoid it. If they say no way, consider the highway — and finding another place to put your hard-earned cash.
BankDry_slide03Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Debit Card Replacement Charges
If you had a wild night on the town and lost your wallet, know that you’re not alone. Be aware, though, that you may have to pay a fee to replace your debit card. At Bank of America, for instance, it costs $5 to replace a card and an additional $15 if you opt for expedited delivery. In any case, be sure to alert your bank that you lost the card to limit your potential losses. At JPMorgan Chase, for instance, if you don’t tell the bank that the card has been lost or stolen within two days after you realize that’s happened, you may be held liable for transactions of up to $500.
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BankDry_slide04Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Foreign Transaction Fees
Heading across the pond or south of the border? Watch out: Some banks will take you for 3% of every dollar you spend abroad, which can add up quickly. What’s more, you may be hit with extra fees for using a foreign cash machine. Be sure to ask your bank about their policies before you travel. If fees are in the equation, consider carrying more cash or finding a credit card that won’t add to the cost of your excursion.
BankDry_slide05Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Wire Transfer Costs
Wiring money — one of the most convenient ways to transfer cash from one bank to another — can set you back a bundle. At big banks, including Chase and Citibank, it can cost as much as $45 each time you send money overseas.
BankDry_slide06Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
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Printed Monthly Statements
Some banks charge up to $3 a month if you want a printed statement of your account activity each month instead of going online to review your charges, checks, and deposits. You can avoid the fee by opting for the online reports, although you may still get whacked if you need a copy of a canceled check.
Final Thoughts
Don’t let your bank bleed you for the privilege of handling your money, especially if you can avoid it. The first step is to spot where your banker is reaching into your pocket by looking for those fees, and then taking steps to stop them. Good hunting!
NerdWallet, a consumer finance website that promotes financial literacy, is forever looking for the best ways to keep Benjamins in your pocket. Be it investments, saving, health care, education, housing, or travel, NerdWallet uses data-driven tools to help you make the best decisions about your money — yep, they do the homework for you.
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