THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Avoiding nasty bank fees

Getting a loan from a bank may be tough, but bank fees certainly aren't hard to come by. Here's how you can avoid giving banks even more of your money.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

home_rich_cover.03.jpg
For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Be on the lookout. According to the latest bankrate.com study, ATM fees average $1.97. That's 11 percent higher than the prior year.

Another common culprit: overdraft fees. Overdraft fees kick in when you don't have enough money in your account to cover a transaction.

Some banks charge a monthly maintenance fee regardless of your balance, while others will ding you only if you fall below a minimum balance. You could also be charged a teller fee, just for going to the teller - perhaps if you have an express, or an online account. You could even be dinged for writing too many checks.

Don't use another bank's ATM. 99.2% of ATMs surcharge according to bankrate.com. So, to avoid these ever-growing fees, use your debit card to make a purchase, and just ask for cash back.

If you really just need an ATM, make sure you avoid the ones at airports, casinos or any other place where the machine is the only way you can access money.

Overdraft fees can be brutal. As high as $40 in some cases and Consumer Reports estimates that translates to over 1000% interest. Here's how you can avoid them:

  • Link your checking account to your savings account
  • Keep track of your deposits/withdrawals
  • Keep a cash cushion (especially if you have companies that withdraw money from your account automatically)

Check the bank's policy. As for the maintenance fees and/or teller fees, make sure you ask the bank what fees you'll be on the hook for.

Join a credit union. Stop going to banks. Join a credit union instead. Credit unions generally have lower fees and higher saving rates on their products. Plus, if you're looking for a credit card, the terms and conditions are generally easier to understand compared to large commercials banks.

A credit union membership may be set up through your employer, a neighborhood association or a church group. You may even be able to join a credit union that serves just your local community. To find out where the credit unions are in your area, go to the National Credit Union Association website.

Gerri's Mailbox: Got questions about your money? We want to hear them! Send an e-mail,we'll answer questions on CNN, Headline News and CNNMoney.com. To top of page

Features
They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
More Galleries
World's worst cities for rush hour traffic So you thought your city had the worst rush hour traffic in the world? More
America's best-performing female CEOs These women run companies whose stocks surged in the past year -- significantly beating the S&P 500. More
Tech's highest paid women Silicon Valley isn't known for its diversity, but it is home to a handful of highly paid female executives. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play