Bank fees aren’t flaws in the system - they allow banks to incrementally boost profits and combat risks at scale. Thankfully, you have more choice than you know as a consumer, with numerous no-fee checking and banking options available.
That’s right: you don’t need to live in fear of fees, and you can bank as you wish! Let's talk about exactly how to find these no-fee bank accounts that protect your cash and allow you to save more money over time.
Before you start signing up for bank accounts left and right, you should first understand the nature of bank fees and how they work. This will explain how no-fee bank accounts actually help you, why they’re worth pursuing, and the best way to make these moves.
Some banks call them maintenance fees, while others call them service fees. The end result is the same: money comes out of your account just for merely being there in the first place! If it seems unfair, that’s because it is, and you deserve a bank that doesn’t do so.
The average maintenance fee is around $10 but can climb as high as $25 in some cases. While you can sometimes avoid these fees by maintaining a certain amount of funds in an account, it’s better to eliminate that concern entirely.
No-fee accounts, such as free checking accounts, charge no maintenance fees regardless of your balance or other stipulations, taking the pressure off as you bank any way you like.
ATMs are a double-edged sword of convenience and annoyance for many banking customers, especially when you’re dealing with out-of-network machines.
The fees add up fast when you use certain ATMs, and you often have no choice but to pay surcharges. Even the most established brick-and-mortar banks end up charging these fees, so do your best to plan ahead or find a bank with a broader network of fee-free ATMs.
There will always be some network ATMs that charge fees, so it’s an unavoidable reality in some situations. However, you don’t want those fees coming from your bank, which is another reason why no-fee accounts are so advantageous.
Of course, some accounts offer ATM fee reimbursements, where you get the surcharge back from your ATM transactions. However, these perks are hard to find and the eligibility requirements are sometimes confusing. What you’ll want ot shoot for is an account with a large free network of ATMs, where you can make ATM withdrawals without much penalty.
These days, we’re always sending money between accounts and using transfers more frequently. It’s just a part of modern banking, and you should be able to make all the wire transfers and Zelle transactions you need without being hit with fees.
Keep in mind that every bank has a different definition of what constitutes a transaction, including limitations on how much can be transferred and how many times this can be done in a specified timeframe. Some banks include hefty foreign transaction fees, others will burden account holders with expensive fees for debit card purchases.
Ideally, you’ll be able to transact on your terms, without constraints, with the full knowledge that you won’t be fined for stepping out of bounds.
So many Americans live in fear of the dreaded overdraft and still find themselves paying hundreds of dollars each year for these fees.
Aside from being more conscious of your spending habits and balances, you can protect yourself from these fees by teaming up with a no-fee checking or banking service. You may not totally save yourself from overdraft fees, but you can save yourself a lot of hassle.
Also, remember that by law, you’re allowed to opt out of overdraft coverage, meaning a transaction will simply fail to complete when you’re out of funds.
These days, you can sign up for a new checking account in a matter of minutes. That said, you don’t always have hundreds or thousands of dollars lying around to fill those new accounts, which is where banks take advantage of new customers with fees.
Depending on the policy, you may be fined for not meeting the minimum balance at a particular time, which can become a logistical nightmare when balancing multiple accounts.
We suggest you stick with no-fee accounts that let you keep any amount at any time and not have to worry about meeting balances and deposit minimums.
Modern banking should be fast, flexible, and offer maximum mobility. Unfortunately, you don’t get that with many banks that limit your actions with fees from every angle.
For instance, some services limit the ability to get paid early, send or receive money, or access certain security and control features depending on customer tiers or access levels.
We’re glad to see that this style of banking is taking a back seat in favor of more inclusive services that anyone can access. Part of that is minimizing fees or eliminating them entirely, which is made possible with lower overhead and digital-driven platforms.
With mobile apps and online banking platforms, it is becoming common to have access to monthly direct deposit or mobile check deposit options for payment, and to have be able to check checking and savings account balances on the go. Many apps even allow you to run a soft check on your credit score.
Avoiding fees is made easier when you have notifications and alerts that actually work in your favor, rather than against you. Too many banks fail to offer these notifications when they’re most relevant, leading to more fees and fines that could be totally preventable.
For instance, you can set up notifications for when your balance is low to avoid an overdrawn checking account fee, or you can set up a bill pay notification to remind you to pay your credit card bill instead of waiting for a paper statement at the the end of a statement cycle.
With mobile banking platforms and neo-banks, you maximize visibility into your accounts and never have to wonder what’s going on behind the scenes. This is the way of the future for better banking and greater financial literacy for all.
We’ve given you the building blocks of a great checking or banking account and pointed out why no-fee services work to your advantage. Now it’s time to go from theory to practice and discover which accounts actually deliver the no-fee experience you want as a customer.
But like all things in the world of personal finance, policies and programs change rapidly, often in the span of just a few weeks. A great offer might appear out of nowhere, only to disappear once again and result in a missed opportunity.
Therefore it’s in your best interest to learn a methodology that will let you analyze financial products in an efficient way and be ready to jump on the best offers when available.
So much of financial well-being is about seizing opportunities at the right place and time, and that’s one of our main priorities in the Steady mission.
Let’s talk about what to look for in no-fee checking and banking accounts so that you can seek out the most beneficial financial products and skip the ones that may look good on the surface but are secretly filled with fees.
Not all banks are upfront about their monthly fees, which is why you should research fully and read user reviews if necessary. Find out if those monthly fees apply, what they entail, and if they can be avoided through certain agreements and procedures.
If you want to skip the possibility of fees entirely, look for banks that are primarily online and don’t have the large brick-and-mortar infrastructure of established institutions.
Also, be aware that different types of accounts - checking, savings, credit building - are often available from the same banks but could have different fee structures. Read the fine print not only for the bank itself but also for the individual financial products and services they offer.
Review all balance requirements before committing to a new bank account of any kind. Some banks will charge fees if you don’t immediately transfer a certain amount of money, while others will fine you every time your balance dips below a set amount.
As always, it helps to be conscious of your balances to avoid financial strain, but you shouldn’t have to be fined for these arbitrary reasons.
Make sure all new accounts have no minimum balance requirements ever - not just in certain situations. Minimum deposits, minimum daily balance, whatever the account agreement may be, the best checking accounts do not hassle you with minimums.
While it seems like a no-brainer on paper, overdraft protection can sometimes come back to bite you when fees start piling up.
Instead of automatically enabling overdraft features, look into the exact mechanisms used by banks before you climb aboard. For example, some banks offer a next-day grace period after a transaction, while others are more strict and immediate with their policies.
It may be in your best interest to deactivate these protections and instead commit to more vigilant financial intelligence using tools that keep you in the know.
ATM access, debit cards, strong interest rates, and other features are often used to entice new customers to banks. However, these ancillary services aren’t always free, despite marketing departments’ best efforts to make them appear so.
Always look out for those asterisks and see what’s really going on behind the scenes with ancillary services, especially if they seem too good to be true.
On the other hand, many mobile-first banks often include great extras but lack physical locations and may not have the best phone-based customer service. As with all things in banking and consumer choices at large, it’s a matter of tradeoffs.
That’s the beauty of a service like Steady; it gives you tons of useful info about the best banks on the scene and offers great incentives to get you started.
With the right strategy and selection criteria, you can finally work with financial institutions that won’t nickel and dime you at every turn. We’ve outlined the best ways to find no-fee checking and banking accounts so that you don’t have to endure a trial-and-error experience.
To make things even easier, Steady can serve as a gateway to a broad array of financial resources you can trust, giving you even greater time-saving and personalization to the way you earn more income.
It’s a proven equation: follow the best practices established here, and connect with top-ranked services through Steady, including our powerful Income Passport that compiles all your income sources into one easy-to-submit document. That way, you’ll never have to worry about staying organized again, no matter how you earn your money.
7 Common Banking Fees and How to Avoid Them | CNBC
12 Types of Fees Banks Charge | Money Crashers
The Ins-And-Outs of Bank Fees | Investopedia