Banks are increasing ATM fees at an astronomical rate and are reducing or eliminating free checking accounts. Bankrate.com stated ATM surcharges for non-bank ATMs – fee charged by a bank outside of your network, increased up 4% for the eight straight year and is now $2.50. The fee your bank charges to use another bank's ATM increased 11%. The cost to use an ATM that is outside of your network can be as high as $5 per ATM use. One out-of-network ATM transaction per month is $60 per year. As a result Bank Transfer Day was established on November 5th.
Banks provide ATMs for free to their customers and cover those costs by charging consumers who use out of network machines. However, consumers are getting wiser and have reduced usage of out-of-network ATMs so banks are trying to make up for lost revenue. Three of the biggest banks: Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citigroup lost a combined 1.5% of deposits last year because of customers switching banks.
According to Bankrate.com only 39% of non-interest checking accounts are free of charge to all customers. The banking industry has lost income due to regulation changes such as limits on overdraft fees and a reduction in debit card swipe fees. As a result banks have reduced the number of free checking accounts available to consumers. Banks now only provide free checking accounts to preferred customers who have direct deposit accounts or a specific minimum balance.
Wells Fargo has phased out its free checking accounts. They now charge a monthly fee for checking accounts plus a fee for online or paper statements. Preferred customers who maintain a daily minimum balance of $1,500 or with direct deposits of at least $500 per month can avoid paying these fees. Some banks charge an extra NSF fee if overdrafts are not repaid within a certain timeframe. Bank of America recently mailed customers notification that starting November 1, 2013 they will be charged fees for certain accounts and increase fees for other accounts. Here are 11 tips for save money on bank account fees.
- Switch banks. Comparison shop to find a bank with little to no fees. Consider switching to a credit union. Also consider using online checking accounts such as ING Direct, EverBank offers, Charles Schwab and FNBO Direct that do not require a minimum balance to open or fees.
- Compare. If you write a lot of checks shop around. Some banks charge $24 or more for a box of 200 checks. You can get the same amount for as low as $10 by ordering directly from the printer or check writing company.
- Get overdraft protection. Verify the terms and conditions of the overdraft protection including verification that you get at 30 days to repay the overdraft.
- Ask about discounts or about specials. Periodically check with your bank to see if there are discounts, specials or better terms available. If you have been a customer at least 1 year remind the company of your loyalty.
- Get cash back. To avoid ATM surcharges get cash back when you make a purchase with your debit card.
- Invest in your bank. Ask about offers for shareholders. If your bank offers them purchase at least one share to get notification about special deals and discounts.
- Limit interactions. Limit in-person bank transactions and ATM visits. Some banks offer no-fee checking accounts if you do all your banking via ATMs. If you must visit a teller, make sure it's for a transaction that you couldn't perform at an ATM; otherwise you'll be charged a fee. Some banks may offer low-fee checking if you have 10 or fewer transactions a month, including checks, debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals.
- What is “free”. Find out what “free” means. Most banks offer free checking if you maintain a balance of at least $500 to $2,500 in a low or no-interest account.
- Link your accounts. Avoid hidden fees by linking other accounts. Link a CD to a checking account or link a savings account to a checking account to satisfy the minimum balance requirement. This only works if your bank treats the money in all your accounts as one combined balance.
- Read the fine print. Read the financial disclosure provided when you opened your bank account and periodically check the banks’ website for any updates or changes to the terms and conditions for your account.
- Calculate. Review your monthly bank statements for the past twelve months. Calculate the monthly fees you incurred during the past twelve months. Calculate your total bank balance for the past twelve months. If the total fees incurred during the past twelve is more than 1% of your total bank balance for the past twelve months you are paying too much in bank fees. You can also calculate your monthly balance versus your monthly bank fees charged. If you have $100 in your bank account left over each month and pay $20 (20%) in fees each month you are paying too much.