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Guide to Monthly Maintenance Fees

By Sheryl Nance-Nash · November 21, 2023 · 8 minute read

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Guide to Monthly Maintenance Fees

If you have a bank account, you may be familiar with the monthly fees that many financial institutions charge their clients simply for having an account. These may be known as “maintenance” or “service” fees and tend to be assessed on checking accounts. However, some banks will charge them on savings accounts too.

If you don’t scrutinize your monthly bank statements, you may not be completely aware of what your charges are on this front or how they can add up over time. And you may not be aware that not every financial institution charges these fees. Some banks will lower them in certain situations, and others don’t collect them at all.

Since maintenance fees can eat away at your hard-earned cash, take a closer look here at how they work and how you might avoid them.

Key Points

•   Monthly maintenance fees may be charged by banks for maintaining personal and business checking accounts, and sometimes savings accounts.

•   The fees can vary from one bank to another, with average monthly maintenance fees for checking accounts being around $13.95.

•   Banks may waive the fees if customers maintain a minimum balance, have multiple accounts, sign up for direct deposit, or use their debit card frequently.

•   Other ways to avoid fees include considering online banks or credit unions and signing up for electronic statements.

•   It’s important to read bank notifications and understand the terms and conditions to avoid unexpected fees.

What Is a Monthly Maintenance Fee?

Banks often charge fees on personal and business checking accounts and sometimes even some types of savings accounts to help them offset operational costs or help to “maintain” your account.

Institutions may also charge these fees as a way to incentivise customers to make larger deposits. Many banks will waive fees if customers keep their balances high or use their account more frequently, all moves that benefit the bank. (Banks may also encourage activity by assessing inactivity fees if you let your account just sit.)

Monthly maintenance fees are usually automatically withdrawn from a customer’s account each month.

How Much Are Monthly Maintenance Fees?

While not all banks charge a monthly maintenance fee, many of the large traditional financial institutions in the U.S. do charge monthly fees.

For Savings Accounts

Monthly maintenance fees on savings accounts can vary greatly. Typically, though, they range from $1 to $8 per month. Some banks may not charge any fee at all.

For Checking Accounts

How much varies from one bank to another, but the average monthly maintenance fee for a checking account is currently around $13.95 per month, according to a recent MoneyRates.com survey.

While that may not seem like a lot of money when viewed as a one-time charge, it adds up to a whopping $167 per year.
Add in other deductions, like for using an out-of-network ATM or triggering overdraft or NSF fees, and these surcharges can start to chip away at your hard-earned money.

10 Tips on Avoiding Account Maintenance Fees

Fortunately, there is often some wiggle room when it comes to maintenance fees. Here are some simple ways you may be able to minimize, or even completely avoid this type of account fee.

1. Choosing the Right Institution

Fees can vary quite a bit from one major U.S. bank to another. Some charge $4.95 a month just for maintaining a checking account, while others charge $12 or more for the same exact service. Others may not charge any maintenance fee at all. For that reason, it can pay to do a little digging before you open a new account.

When comparing banks, it can be helpful to understand exactly what the monthly maintenance fee (if any) will be, and if there are any ways to avoid the fee.

Many banks will waive the monthly fee If you meet certain requirements. If you won’t be able to meet those conditions, however, you may want to keep shopping around.

2. Maintaining a Minimum Balance

Many institutions will waive the monthly account fee if you keep a certain amount of money in your account, known as a minimum balance.

That means If your average monthly balance dips below this amount, the maintenance fee would be triggered for that month and deducted from your account.

If your average monthly balance is above this threshold, the bank would waive the fee for that month.

3. Opening More than One Account

Many institutions will reward you for loyalty and waive monthly fees if you have multiple accounts with them, such as a savings account, money market account, or certificate of deposit (CD), in addition to a personal checking account.

In some cases, linking your accounts (such as a checking and a savings account) can help you meet the balance requirement to avoid the monthly maintenance fee.

4. Signing up for Direct Deposit

Many checking accounts are free when you elect to have your paycheck or benefits check automatically deposited into your account.

Each bank may have slightly different qualifying criteria. Some banks waive the maintenance fee if you make a certain number of direct deposits to your account each month, while others might require you to deposit a minimum dollar amount.

Recommended: How Long Does a Direct Deposit Take to Go Through?

5. Using Your Debit Card Frequently

You may want to find out if your financial institution waives checking account fees if you use the bank-issued debit card linked to the account to make purchases or bill payments a certain number of times per month.

This number will vary from one bank to another, but 10 is often the number required to make fees disappear.

Banks are able to ease up on customer fees because they get paid transaction fees from the merchants.

6. Reading Your Bank Notifications

Your free checking account is sometimes only free until…it isn’t.

While it’s important to read your account agreement when you first open up an account (and make sure you understand the bank’s requirements to avoid fees), you may also want to keep in mind that your bank can change its rules at any time as long as it notifies you about the change in writing.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to read the notifications the bank sends (via email or snail mail) about changes to its terms and conditions.

This will allow you to keep up to date on what you need to do to avoid monthly service fees before you start seeing these debts show up on your account.

7. Giving up an Interest-Bearing Checking Account

If you have an interest-bearing checking account with your bank, it may be worth checking to see whether you can avoid a monthly maintenance fee by switching bank accounts to an interest-free one. This could actually help you come out ahead.

Today’s interest rates are so low that the interest you are earning on your checking account may not even cover the monthly service fee you are paying in order to have an interest or “rewards” checking account.

8. Considering an Online Bank or Credit Union

Because online-only banks typically have lower overhead expenses than brick-and-mortar institutions, they can be less likely to charge their customers monthly fees. (They often pay considerably higher interest rates as well.)

Credit unions can be worth checking out as well. As nonprofit, member-owned institutions, credit unions typically aren’t as focused on the bottom line as for-profit banks. This enables them to charge lower rates on credit products and levy fewer (and lower) account fees compared to banks.

9. Asking About Student and Senior Discounts

Many banks will offer a break on monthly fees to students. So, if you are currently in school it can be worthwhile to ask if a discount is offered, what age group is covered, what proof you’ll need to show that you’re a student, and what types of schools are included.

Similarly banks may offer a lower fee or no monthly fee if you’re over a certain age, and qualify as what they consider a “senior.”

10. Signing up for Electronic Statements

You may be used to getting that statement in the mail and there is something to be said for having it handy, but is it worth paying a fee for?

Since financial institutions save money by not printing and mailing you a paper statement each month, they often pass that savings along by offering discounts to customers who agree to go paperless.

The discount is often a reduced or eliminated monthly maintenance fee.

The Takeaway

You don’t necessarily have to settle for high monthly checking account fees.

Many financial institutions will waive monthly fees if you maintain a certain balance, make a minimum number of purchases with your debit card each month, or sign up for direct deposit.

Another way to avoid paying monthly fees is to consider a SoFi Checking and Savings Account. With SoFi, you can earn a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) and save and spend, all in one account. And SoFi Checking and Savings doesn’t have any account fees which could eat away at your savings.

Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

How can you avoid monthly maintenance fees?

There are several ways to avoid monthly maintenance fees on your bank account, including switching banks, meeting minimum balance requirements, opening additional accounts, and skipping paper statements, among other moves.

Why are you getting charged a monthly maintenance fee?

Banks typically charge maintenance fees as a way to recoup some of their operating costs. You may be able to take steps, however, to avoid these fees in part or totally.

Are maintenance fees yearly?

Bank maintenance fees are typically deducted automatically from your account on a monthly basis.


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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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