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Tips for avoiding bank service fees

Think ahead to avoid ATM and other banking-related

Think ahead to avoid ATM and other banking-related fees. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto / lovelyday12

Those who can least afford it are paying more than three times as much than others for bank or credit union fees. According to a survey commissioned by of more than 1,000 Americans, people with annual household income under $30,000 and a checking account, pay an average of $31 per month in bank or credit union fees, compared to $9 by those in other income brackets.

What are some smart strategies for avoiding fees?

  • Get the 411

“Find out what it takes to waive monthly service fees. If you can’t meet those conditions — whether that’s maintaining a certain minimum balance, or receiving regular direct deposits — shop around and consider . . . a bank that offers a free checking account. If you’re having trouble opening a traditional account, look for a second chance checking account or a checkless checking account, which can help you avoid overdraft fees,” says Amanda Dixon, analyst with

  • Consider credit unions

Many credit unions belong to the COOP network, which offers free ATM and in-branch transactions to members nationwide. “Beyond our branded ATMs, Bethpage has a network of 5,000+ shared service centers and 30,000+ ATMs where members can always withdraw money surcharge free,” says Linda Armyn, senior vice president, Bethpage Federal Credit Union. The nationwide locater can be found at

  • Low credit card rates are your friend

“If you have decent credit, get a credit card with the credit union as well. Their interest rates are much lower than [those at] commercial banks. With a checking account and credit card through your credit union, you can enjoy low fee products, save more, and be on your way to building a healthy relationship with a financial institution,” says Ogechi Igbokwe, founder of in East Northport.

  • Opt out of overdraft fees

Says Kim Palmer, a banking and credit card expert with, “You can opt out of overdraft fees, which can cost frequent over-drafters $442 a year.” One caveat: If you don’t have enough funds, your purchase will be rejected or your check will bounce.

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