When it comes to saving money, there are lots of strategies you could try, from setting up separate accounts for larger savings goals (think college room and board, or a two-week vacation abroad) to figuring out how to earn more interest on the dollars you’ve already managed to save.
But another key aspect of the savings game is being aware of the fees a bank charges its customers.
After all, you’re working hard for your money, and it’s not fun to see any of it slip away due to something like an ATM charge or an overdraft fee. These deductions might go unnoticed as the information can be tucked deep into the fine print of your account details.
Some banks even charge a minimum balance fee. That means that if your account balance drops below a certain amount—it could be the daily balance, or your account’s average balance for the month—the bank charges a monthly maintenance fee. You might think of it as a consequence for not keeping above the stated balance.
A recent Bankrate study found that, on average, financial institutions are charging $5.57 per month in maintenance fees for non-interest-bearing checking accounts, which comes out to about $67 per year. That may not seem like a huge sum, but multiply that by every year you’re with the bank, and it might catch your attention.
These fees aren’t just something you have to accept. Additionally, another study also found that some non-interest-bearing accounts—about 41% of them—don’t have any balance requirements or monthly fees.
That means no more suffering through your financial institution nickel and diming you (though this type of account also means you’re gaining zero dollars via interest). Here are a few ideas that might help you keep your pennies all to yourself.
Keeping Your Account Above the Minimum Balance
Perhaps the most obvious way to avoid a minimum balance fee is to keep your account balance above the stated minimum amount. This might take some effort on your part—you may want to read all the fine print, know the dollar amount not to dip below in each account, then keep diligent track of your funds in each account.
It might be a lot of mental energy, but it could be a starting point if you’re sticking with an account that has minimum balance requirements.
An account that requires the owner to keep a specific minimum balance in order to avoid a fee may make sense in some situations.
For example, if you open this type of savings account, then deposit the required balance and plan to add to the account and to rarely make withdraws, you would likely not dip below the required balance. If it’s an account that you pull from often, your balance might fall below the minimum, resulting in a charge.
Another strategy could be to link multiple accounts to more easily reach a minimum balance. This may or may not be an option where you bank, so again, you’ll want to read the fine print.
Looking for Other Fee Waivers Available
Some bank accounts offer a list of additional ways customers can avoid paying that minimum balance fee or a monthly service fee. For example, a bank might waive a monthly fee if the account holder sets up direct deposit. Note that a certain value of that direct deposit may be required.
Select banks also waive fees if you use your debit card a certain number of times per month. That’s because consumer use of debit cards typically makes the banks some money — each time you swipe your debit card, the business you are shopping with pays the bank what’s called an interchange fee. In short, that’s a transaction fee that covers the cost of moving your money.
Hunting for a No-Fee Bank Account
No-fee accounts used to be easier to find. Ten years ago, about 73% of checking accounts didn’t charge service fees or balance fees, according to Bankrate . Now, only about 8% of interest-bearing checking accounts are free.
If you are currently enrolled in college, you may find it a tad easier to find free bank accounts than your non-collegiate counterparts.
A number of banks offer no-fee checking and savings accounts to customers enrolled in a university.
Prospective customers in want of a student account will likely need to show their bank proof of student status (a college ID, an admittance letter, or a transcript might work for this).
After they do so, some banks will charge no monthly account fees for up to five years , so long as the account owner remains enrolled in school. Read the fine print of your student bank account closely so that you are super clear on all of its terms and conditions.
SoFi Money® is among your no account fee money management options. This cash management account allows you to save, spend, and earn all in one place.
As an added bonus, with SoFi Money, withdrawing cash is fee-free at 55,000+ ATMs worldwide. We work hard to charge zero account fees. With that in mind, our fee structure is subject to change at any time.
If figuring out how to avoid fees at your fee-heavy bank requires a whole lot of effort, you might consider making the switch to a financial institution that offers no mess, and no fees.
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SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.