Four Ways To Avoid Monthly Bank Fees

Paying money for saving money always sounds counter-intuitive. Use these four methods to avoid monthly bank fees.

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The Deutsche Bank headquarters are seen in Frankfurt, Germany, in this October 29, 2013 file photo. Deutsche Bank will report a record pre-tax loss of 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in the third quarter and will cut or skip dividend payments for 2015, it said late on Wednesday.

Monthly bank fees are as common as they are frustrating. That money, sometimes north of $100 a year, could be going toward savings or reducing debt, or a few nights out at the movies. Instead, you’re paying just for the privilege of keeping your money somewhere.

But you can avoid these charges. Most banks and credit unions waive fees for customers who satisfy certain requirements. Even though you may not meet those criteria today, you can meet them in the future by using these four tips. Then you can put the money you save on fees to better use.

1. Save money to meet minimum balance requirements

Fee structures vary by institution, but customers at most banks and credit unions can dodge them by keeping balances above a certain amount. For basic checking accounts at national banks that don’t earn interest or other perks, that figure tends to be around $1,500. For premier accounts, it may be as much as $10,000.

Customers who don’t have the funds to meet that mark may want to make a concerted effort to bolster their savings. Approach this as you would any other savings goal.

“Put aside $25 per week — or whatever you can reasonably save — until you meet your goal,” says Carrie Houchins-Witt, a financial advisor in Coralville, Iowa. “Keep saving that $25 each week until you have a cushion. That way, you won’t have to worry daily about dipping below the minimum and getting hit with fees.”

2. Enroll in direct deposit

Another way to avoid fees is to enroll in direct deposit, a service through which your paycheck or some other regular money you receive is automatically paid into your bank account. Some financial institutions will require you to receive a certain amount of money in direct deposits each month, typically not more than $500 for basic checking accounts. If that applies to you, don’t distribute your income to more than one account.

“If you’re splitting your direct deposit between two accounts, like checking and saving, you may never meet the minimum,” says Johanna Fox Turner, a financial advisor in Mayfield, Kentucky. “But you can set up your direct deposit so that your entire income goes to your checking account, and then simply transfer some of that money to your savings each month.”

3. Open a savings account at the same institution

A financial institution might also waive fees for consumers who have multiple products at that bank or credit union. For most people, opening a savings account will be the easiest solution.

In addition to helping you avoid monthly service charges, this arrangement can protect you from incurring overdraft fees, which can cost as much as $38 at some financial institutions.

4. Switch to plastic

A few financial institutions waive monthly service fees for customers who use the debit card linked to the account a certain number of times each month, usually around 10 swipes. If you’re having difficulty fulfilling some of the other waiver requirements, consider finding a financial institution that cancels fees for frequent debit card users.

The bottom line

Another option, of course, would be to simply ditch your current financial institution for a bank or credit union that offers free checking. Just make sure that you won’t be hit with an early termination fee, which can happen when closing an account within a few months of opening it. While you’re at it, you could pair that new account with an online-only savings account that’ll earn you interest.

But if you like your bank or credit union and just want to eliminate fees, these moves can keep you from paying them down the road.

This article first appeared at NerdWallet.

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