Don’t let your Bank Rip you off

It is a sad commentary on the relationship that customers have with their financial institution, in that they have to find ways to outsmart the bank in order to avoid an array of ridiculous fees and penalties.

The days when your banker was a family friend who knew you, and your financial situation, are long gone. As more and more small banks have been eaten up by larger corporations, it has become a dog eat dog relationship. When the government tried to help customers by controlling the interest rates that banks were charging, the banks responded by coming up with a whole set of new fees designed to make up for the money that they were losing. Customers however, have come up with some creative ways to avoid these fees and it is a challenge to keep from paying for things that should be free.

Read the fine print on all the mailings that come from the bank. The law says they must tell you about fees. Most people just throw these little pieces of paper into the garbage when they come with a monthly statement. It is important that you read them since the banks are required by law to tell you when they are changing or adding extra fees and not reading them could be costing you money. Be aware, some banks are now charging to receive a paper statement.

Ask for a break from your bank. Long-time customers may be able to get relief from some fees.  It may require that you keep a higher balance in the account, open additional accounts or have automatic deposits made. It is a small price to pay to keep fees at a minimum.

While debit cards are a great convenience, to banks, they are the cash cow of the future.  Last year, several banks tried to tack on additional charges to debit cards. The public response was so immediate and violent that the banks backed off, at least for now.  It is anticipated however, that they will try this tact again since it is such a lucrative one and the use of debit cards is so prevalent. A reward credit card can be a better option if the balance is paid in full every month.   Many banks have already eliminated the rewards that are earned on debit card use. 

If your bank will not eliminate or lower fees, switch banks. Online banks and large credit unions are good options. According to Lisa Lee Freeman on the Today Show, the average bank charges $10 a month in checking account fees, the average credit union charges $6.

To find a better place to do business with, go to the website Find A Better Bank .com. The site compares banking fees and options and includes large banks, smaller local institutions and even credit unions.  When considering credit unions, be sure that they have a large network of ATMs.  If you are a frequent user, these fees can really add up.

Banks are trying to make extra money by tacking on lots of additional fees. You need to be aware of these fees and proactive in order to outsmart the bank. It may not be easy, but it is possible to come out a winner and in today’s economy;  you need to be aware of every penny you are spending.