Consumers can often avoid bank fees by learning about their financial institutions’ fee policies and carefully tracking their bank accounts. Banks and credit unions are required to disclose all fees. When people open bank accounts, they usually receive a list of fees that can be charged for various services and account activity. Customers are also given written notice of any changes in fees, usually 30 days or more before the changes are effective.
Different types of accounts can be subject to various bank fees. Savings accounts may require that a minimum balance be maintained to avoid a service fee. Savings accounts, including money market accounts, are also subject to Regulation D fees. Regulation D is a federal rule that limits certain types of savings account transactions each month.
Regulation D allows six transactions per month without the account owner present. Transactions that fall under Regulation D include phone transactions, checks, and most electronic transactions. ATM transactions and those completed in person at a branch do not count toward the Regulation D monthly limit. Account owners are charged a fee for each transaction over the limit.
Checking accounts are not subject to Regulation D. While many checking accounts do not have monthly service fees, other fees may be charged for bounced checks, returned checks, courtesy pay, and ATM withdrawals. To avoid these bank fees, consumers can carefully track their checking account transactions and balance.
Customers can also use their own bank’s ATMs as often as possible to avoid bank fees. When a person uses another bank’s ATM, that person may be charged two different fees. Both the customer’s bank and the bank that owns the ATM can charge a fee to the account. The fee charged by the ATM owner is called an ATM surcharge.
Consumers should keep bank accounts open only if they use the account. Inactivity or dormant fees may be charged to accounts with no activity for six months or more. If you move and the bank cannot contact you regarding a dormant account for several years, it is also possible to lose any money that was left in the account.
Some banks charge fees for services like money orders and certified checks. Many banks waive or lower these fees based on the amount of business the person conducts with the bank. This is often known as relationship pricing. Consumers may want to consolidate some of their bank accounts and loans at one financial institution to take advantage of relationship pricing and help lower bank fees.
Closely tracking all banking activity can help the average consumer avoid most bank fees. An easy way to track account activity and avoid fees is to monitor all accounts using online banking. Many banks and credit unions offer free online banking. Some banks do charge fees for items such as transfers to a third party and electronic bill pay.