How to reduce the costs of banking

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Banks are reacting to regulations that limit overdraft fees with an onslaught of other charges and penalties.

These new bank fees can be costly if you don’t know how to avoid them. Here are the best ways to save your money.

  • Read notices in the mail from your bank. Regulations require that banks alert you about new fees, but you have to educate yourself and stay on top of the communication. Otherwise, you could be rudely awakened with a minimum balance fee on your checking account, for example.
  • Opt for online banking, as Internet-based banks tend to not nickel-and-dime customers. Online banks can save you $4 to $25 on monthly maintenance fees that you’d have at a traditional bank.
  • Call a bank’s branch to get a clearer picture of an account and its fees. Bank representatives can look up your account and recommend the best products for you. You can often learn more from a phone call than sifting through legalese on the bank’s website.
  • Sign on for other bank services in exchange for fees being waived. Direct deposit, online-only banking and paperless statements could make your checking and savings accounts free.
  • Ask your bank to remove a fee. If you’ve been a good customer historically, they’ll want to work with you and retain you. It’s probable that your bank may drop an overdraft fee if you haven’t overdrawn in several years.
  • Change the way you bank to avoid fees. If your free checking account is moving to paid, you may be able to boost the minimum you keep in the account, pay for checks or reduce the number of transactions you make to hang onto your free checking.
  • Consider switching to a credit union, which is service-driven, not profit-driven. Credit unions are member-owned and operated, so any earned profits are given back to members as favorable rates and services.
  • Mix and match the banks you use based on their products and fees. You may opt to use a checking account from a credit union and a business account from a commercial bank, depending on your banking needs.