Bankrate.com is out with the annual look at ATM and checking account fees. This year's big mover was ATM fees. There are two fees consumers typically encounter when using an out-of-network ATM -- the surcharge assessed by the ATM owner on a non-customer and the fee charged by your own bank for going outside the network. The average total cost for an out-of-network ATM withdrawal is $4.35, a new high for the 8th consecutive year and up 5 percent from one year ago.
Overdraft fees increased for a 16th consecutive year. The average cost of the first overdraft is now $32.74, and with some banks using a tiered structure, keep in mind that the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time you overdraw the checking account, it could cost even more.
Speaking of checking accounts, the average balance requirement on interest checking accounts jumped 7 percent to a new high of more than $6,200. And if you can't maintain that balance? Well, then you'll get socked with a monthly fee, which averages $14.76, also a new high.
But let's finish on a bright note. The decline in availability of free checking has bottomed, with 38 percent of non-interest accounts available for free with no strings attached, the same as last year. And 97 percent of all accounts surveyed, both interest and non-interest, are either free or can become free, oftentimes with something as simple as direct deposit.
Remember to keep tabs on your available account balance via online and mobile access, and sign up for email or text alerts to avoid those ever-increasing overdraft charges.
ATM fees are avoidable too. Plan ahead as to where and when you use the ATM, and check out your bank or credit union's app to find the locations of nearby ATMs you can use for free.
While fees are likely to continue rising in the future, using these strategies and other tips available at Bankrate.com, you can avoid the fees altogether. For more information on avoiding checking account and ATM fees, and to the find the best checking account for your needs, just click on the Bank Rates tab at Bankrate.com. I'm Greg McBride.