I used to pay hundreds in banking fees — here’s how I finally learned to avoid them


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As I sat in front of my computer reviewing my bank statements from 2018, my eyes bulged with regret, embarrassment, and what if’s.

In one month alone, I found myself paying close to $100 in fees because of a low balance in an account with a $2,500 a month minimum.

Another month, I was hit was overdraft fees, foreign transaction fees, and wire fees, that my eyes had previously just glossed over. It wasn’t until I really sat down and looked at every line item inside my bank account that I noticed I was spending too much money on fees I could easily avoid.

Unfortunately, I’m not alone. According to a report by Pew Charitable Trusts, the largest US banks charged $11.6 billion in overdraft fees and insufficient fund fees in 2015.

What I’ve learned is that letting these fees go through, without a fight, was a big mistake. In fact, banks and credit card companies often have to pay anywhere from five to 25 times more than the cost of fees to replace you as a customer.

Since they want to avoid churn, they might be willing to waive some of those fees. It’s at least worth the ask.

Here’s how to do it.

Stay proactive

One way I now avoid having to fight bank fees is by making myself aware of the fees you can be charged for in varying scenarios. I recommend making an appointment at your bank or simply hop on the phone with them to ask about all the fees you may need to know about.

Go the extra step and ask for a “heads-up” from your bank by setting up email or text notifications when your bank balance is running low. That way you can be proactive about making the necessary changes within your account to avoid fees or contact the bank before the charges are processed.

Make a list from the past 90-days

If you’re going back in time, start with the previous 90-days. I’ve learned that banks are more likely to consider waving fees from that time period. Charges that were issued after that might be harder to fight, but you may be able to have $25 or more waived from each month within that time period.

After that, you can set up a personal alert to review monthly fees so that you can get to fighting those as soon as possible.

Use open-ended questions

When calling up your bank to ask about getting fees waived, I try to use open ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. If you can keep the line of conversation open, you’ll have a better chance at getting some of your money back. Here’s one script you can try:

You: Hi, I just noticed this bank charge for XYZ and I’d like to have it waived.

Bank: I see that fee. Unfortunately, we’re not able to waive that fee.

You: I’ve been a good customer with the bank for X years now and would still like to get it waived What else can you do to help me?

Bank:  I see that you’re a really good customer. I’m going to check with my supervisor. Can you hold for a second?

I used this script to try and reach positive outcomes from conversations, such as getting supervisor approval to nullify the bank fee you’re fighting. If they do say no, you can be persistent (since they don’t want to lose you as a customer) or hang up and call again the next day.

From my experience, sometimes all it takes to get a fee waived is to talk to the right bank representative. It’s certainly worth a try.

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