Free checking enables you to avoid monthly fees and the minimum daily balance requirements that often accompany them. But you may still incur other fees for other types of transactions. There are approximately 30 possible fees associated with the average checking account, according to WalletHub’s Checking Account Transparency Report
. For most consumers, however, the highest cost after a monthly fee comes from bounced checks and account overdrafts. Acting strategically will help you keep costs as low as possible. Here are some tips for doing so:
- Say No To Your Bank: When you open your checking account, the bank or credit union will offer to cover one-time debit card and ATM transactions that exceed your balance in exchange for an overdraft fee. By refusing this offer, your transactions will be declined, but you won’t incur costly overdraft charges.
- Get Overdraft Protection: While you can opt out from having your bank cover overdrafts, you can still be charged nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees when you bounce checks. A service offered by banks and credit unions,overdraft protection keeps your account from going negative in the first place. It covers checking account shortfalls by transferring funds from another deposit account or even from a loan. There is a cost associated with this option, but it is cheaper than overdraft and NSF fees.
- Monitor Your Banking Activity: In any case, a little attention to your banking activity will help you to avoid costly overdraft fees. Take advantage of online and mobile banking tools. You can also maintain a check register and reconcile it with your bank statement every month. And by recording checks as you write them, you’ll avoid spending the funds that are meant to cover those checks.
- Avoid ATM Fees: You can save on ATM fees by selecting a bank that has terminals located close to your home and work. But an even better option is to seek out an institution that doesn’t charge to use other banks’ ATMs. Some, like online-only banks, will even reimburse you for the surcharges many ATM owners tack on.
- Don’t Overlook Smaller Institutions: You might start by looking at credit unions, which charge, on average, about 70% cheaper fees than national banks, according to the WalletHub Banking Landscape Report. But don’t ignore online-only banks, which charge roughly comparable rates to credit unions, due to their low overhead.