Lower Your Banking Expenses the New Fashioned Way

Explore: Personal Finance Blog

Sadly, there are still many, many people who pay fees for ordinary banking services, like a checking account, credit card, or ATM usage. Luckily, all it takes is a little alteration to long-standing habits to save those fees, which add up over a year to a chunk of change. And, as we all know, every little bit helps these days.

A free checking account is the easiest thing to obtain these days. If you have any money to deposit at all, you can get one simply by asking. The exact mechanics varies from bank to bank, so you’ll need to ask your local branch, or check the offers online.

For example, some banks will only provide free checking if you apply at the same time for a savings account. The minimums required are usually very low, often less than $100 for the combined accounts. Others will agree if you allow them to move money from your checking to savings once per month.

Some require that you write no more than X checks per month – the exact number varies but it is generally at least up to 10. That barrier is also easy to overcome simply by doing more of your checking online, since paying bills online reduces the number of checks you have to write every month.

Credit card fees are also largely a thing of the past for those who exercise a little willpower and do some homework.

The biggest savings, of course, can be gained by reduced interest charges. You can use your credit card for any purchase you want without paying interest so long as you pay the bill in full by the due date. That also helps remind you to live within your means, a valuable goal in these uncertain times.

It’s easy to ensure that you pay no annual fee. With banks still competing for your credit card business, anyone with decent credit (and sometimes those without it) can get a no-fee credit card. There are a few exceptions, like an ordinary American Express card, but that card offers few advantages to most people to offset the large annual fee.

Even American Express offers no-fee cards, though. So, you can still get one of that brand if you’re particularly interested in being able to show merchants that you have a card from Amex. There are some circumstances where that can be a benefit, such as when you are on vacation and don’t want to have to worry about daily spending limits.

ATM fees used to add up to a chunk of change, too. But with the number of national banks, and with a little thinking ahead, you need not pay them. If you’re planning a trip and don’t want to carry cash, obtain a few traveler’s checks. Many banks offer them free to customers and that’s one more thing to ask about when you’re looking for that free checking account.

The key is to spend the time to shop around and read the fine print. That’s not the most exciting thing in the world when it comes to banking services, perhaps, but it can save you quite a tidy sum in a year’s time.

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