Before 2010, banks let their customers use their debit cards to make a purchase or an ATM withdrawal even if there weren’t sufficient funds in the account. In return, banks charged a costly overdraft fee. After recent financial regulation prohibited banks from doing this without customers’ consent, banks started looking for ways to recoup lost revenue. What does this mean for you? Services that used to be free often aren’t now. Some banks charge $1 to $3 just for talking to a teller. “Today only about half the nation’s largest banks offer no-cost or conditional checking, down from 64 percent a year ago, and the number keeps dropping,” says Mike Moebs, an economist and the chief executive of Moebs Services, an economic-research firm in Lake Bluff, Illinois. Happily, these three strategies will help you steer clear of many of the new charges.
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Have Multiple Accounts in One Place
Use one bank for most of your big-ticket financial accounts (meaning more than $10,000 is involved), such as your mortgage, home-equity loan, CDs, and IRA, and you won’t get hit with a fee, because you’re a valued customer, says Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com, a personal-finance website.
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Maintain a Minimum Balance
Almost all regular checking accounts now require you to keep a balance at or above $250. Dip below that just once during the month and you’ll get hit with a charge that can range from $2.50 to $13. Be aware that the minimum requirements on interest-bearing accounts are far higher: a whopping $3,800 on average.
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Meet the Bank’s Conditions
Fees are often waived if you meet a few conditions: Your paycheck is automatically deposited into your account; you use your debit card a certain number of times a month (typically 10 or more purchases and/or withdrawals); and you bank online. (Contact your bank for specifics.) Easy enough to do—and you’ll reap the rewards.