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Exclusive   2007 Checking Study
  STATISTIC: Bounced-check fee climbs 3 percent to $28.23. Checking account  
  fees keep going up, Bankrate's survey shows.  

Banking fees up again
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Instead, vow to eliminate needless ATM fees by making all withdrawals at your own bank's ATM. Many smaller banks and credit unions that lack an extensive ATM network of their own have joined ATM alliances that permit free withdrawals from hundreds or thousands of ATMs around the country. Scope out whether your bank belongs to such a network.

Another avenue is with the debit cards that have seen such tremendous growth because of their convenience, especially on small purchases. Opting for cash back at the point of sale, as long as your bank doesn't charge you for point-of-sale transactions, is tantamount to a free ATM withdrawal.

This is particularly viable for consumers who are traveling and unable to access their own bank's ATM. So the next time the Transportation Security Administration confiscates your toothpaste at the airport, use the inevitable stop at a convenience store as an opportunity to get the cash you need without paying ATM fees.

Step 2: Keep track of where you've been.
One bounced check will set you back an average of $28.23, not including any fee tacked on by the merchant you were paying. Have more than one payment returned and the cost for each additional overdraft can easily balloon to more than $30. That can result in a pretty hefty tab if you've miscalculated your balance and sent out a host of payments to cover the household bills.

Because of the ever-increasing cost of bounced checks, keeping accurate tabs on your available account balance is more important than ever. Diligently recording each of the checks you've written, all of the online payments and transfers you've made, as well as noting each instance where you swiped the handy debit card, is a precursor to avoiding an overdrawn account.

There are a couple other strategies to employ. More than 98 percent of banks surveyed offer free online access to account holders, facilitating the ability to check your available balance 24/7 before you initiate a transaction that results in an overdrawn account. Having overdraft protection linked to your savings account is a low-cost, sometimes no-cost, backstop.

  -- Posted: Sept. 26, 2007
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Average interest yields keep dropping
ATM fees still rising
Traditional vs. online checking
Winners and losers: Certificates of deposit
Winner or loser: Mortgage shopper
Winner or loser: Home equity loans

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