Banking fees are starting to get outrageous, but if you’re careful, you can keep the bank from stealing your hard-earned money. Here’s how
Nowadays, your financial institution can create new banking fees out of thin air with nothing more than a letter — and more and more of them are doing it.
In Part I of this article, I explained how new regulations and poor management have prompted banks to start charging fees for things that used to be free. In the exciting conclusion, I’ll discuss a few ways you can avoid these fees.
Follow Their Rules
If you’ve been a customer of a particular bank for a while, or have all your bill payment options tied into your bank accounts so that it would be a pain to move them elsewhere, you can attempt to follow the rules that supposedly let you avoid fees.
Usually, the rules require that you maintain a certain level of activity, deposit a minimum sum, or maintain a specific minimum balance per month. The required amounts used to be fairly small; $200 was common for the minimum balance, for example.
In recent months, those amounts have increased substantially. One major banking chain now requires a minimum balance of $1,500 or direct deposits exceeding $500 for even the most basic account. Otherwise, they’ll charge a maintenance fee of $12 a month — $144 a year!
The Polite Approach
Alternately, you can approach Customer Service and politely ask them to waive the fees. If you’ve been a long-time customer who’s caused no trouble in the past, point this out to them.
If you just can’t afford the fees, admit it; the way some banks structure their charges, it’s almost as if they’re trying to run off their less-wealthy customers. As unlikely as it seems, they may not realize that it would be more profitable for you to keep your money in a mattress.
If you must, remind them that you’ve chosen to give them your business, and you’re fully willing to take it elsewhere — but that you’d prefer not to. They may see reason yet.
To be honest, this option is less likely to work than it has in the past. Banks are hard-up for profits, and the government cut off its free-money spigot some time ago. Customer service reps (the few that are left) have been instructed to harden their hearts. But it’s worth a shot.
The Nuclear Option
When nothing else works, take your business elsewhere. There are still a few banks that don’t charge fees for basic accounts; you just have to find them, do your due diligence, and start anew.
Yes, it’s a hassle to move your accounts; but if it’ll save you substantial money in the long run, do it. You can’t let those annoying banking fees drain your finances forever.