Financial Blog

Personal Finance

 If you have a lot of money, or even just some money, you will be offered numerous ways to get free checking.

As I think about ways to open this article, I think that the direct approach will work best. When you have money, you don’t really notice the fees that banks charge. If you have a lot of money, or even just some money, you will be offered numerous ways to get free checking, or at the very least reduced-fee checking.


But, and this is pretty ironic, if you don’t have a lot of money, you will pay more for your accounts and seemingly be hit from every direction with various banking fees.


The good news is that there are ways to reduce those fees. Here are a few of the ways that we have discovered.



1.     Compare banks. Many people assume that banks all charge about the same, so pick the one nearest you and call it a day. This is not true.


Allow me to share a story. About a year and a half ago, I closed my accounts at Wells Fargo and moved them to Bank America. I have a small business (and I do mean small) and paid $40 a month to Wells for that account. There was no way around it, unless I was able to keep tens of thousands of dollars in my accounts. There was no way I could do that. But, I needed the account.


Now, at Bank of America I pay $12 a month for the exact same features.



SAVINGS: $28 a month


I’m saving on my personal account too. At Wells, it was $12 a month. Every month. Now I pay the same $12, but some months I qualify to get it for free. This year I’ve qualified for free checking in four months out of seven.




That is not small potatoes. One more thing; don’t stop at comparing big banks. Check small banks and credit unions as well. The point being…you might be paying too much to your bank.


1a. Check your current bank for promotions. You don’t think of your bank as “running promotions” but they do. It’s always worth asking to see if you qualify to save a few dollars.


Change your Banking behavior


The next couple of ideas relate to how a change in behavior can save you money.  


2.     Plan trips to the ATM to use your own banks’, rather than using a third-party ATM. The ATM standing is corner is convenient, but it isn’t cheap.


ATM fees work like this…you take out $40 from your checking account. If you use your own bank’s ATM, that service is free. If you use an ATM that is not your bank’s, you are charged $2-3 by the owner of the machine that you are using AND in most cases will be charged an additional $1-$3 by your own bank.


So, that $40 could end up costing you $46. It’s worth planning your ATM trips.




3.     This one is tough. Don’t ignore your lack of money. When you’re having money problems, you may have a tendency to ignore anything having to do with banking or how little money you have. It’s understandable.


The last thing you want to do is see proof that you don’t have any money. I know this because I’ve been there. I cost myself money, because I didn’t want to deal with. All I had to do was transfer some money, but I was too depressed about it to do so. I cost myself hundreds of dollars in extra fees because I didn’t want to deal with it.

Don’t do what I did. Put your pride aside and actively manage your money, to save yourself money.



4.     Add automatically deducted payments to your calendar. These are payments that you agree to have automatically deducted from your bank account. They might include your monthly cell phone payment, or your cable and internet bills..


Then write down your once-a-year deductions such as movie theater subscriptions, magazine subscriptions, auto-club memberships and more.


If you’ve had your checking account for a year or more, take out the previous year’s statements. Walk through each month and make a note of each automatic deduction that you have. You’re going to be surprised by some I guarantee you. When I did it I found several automatic deductions that I forgot.


Then add these deducted amounts to your digital calendar, or go old-school and write yourself a note and tape it somewhere you will see it. The reason for all of this is to make sure that you have enough money in your account to cover these automatic deductions. This will save you overdraft fees.


SAVINGS: Potentially $Hundreds


Not having money costs a lot of money. It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is. With a little planning though, you can help to preserve what funds you have for yourself.