Average Checking and ATM Fees (And How to Avoid Them)

checking and atm fees
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When it comes to saving money, it seems that most banks are making it more and more difficult to keep you hard earned money. Bank account fees can put a dent in your budget quickly. Between checking account fees and ATM fees these little dings to your finances can really add up and cost you more than you may realize.

But they don’t have to. You can avoid most checking account fees and most fees of the ATM with a little bit of planning and a smidge of know how.

Here’s what you need to know in order to keep the money you’ve earned in your own pocket–– and how to avoid other commonly charged fees that can cost you a bundle.

Scoring Free Checking Accounts

In most cases, in order to get a free checking account, you need to do one of three things:

  1. Have direct deposit set up from work or another source.
  2. Keep a minimum balance that varies from bank to bank.
  3. Open an account with a small credit union or local bank that offers free checking without having to do the first two.

While it may not seem like a lot of money, checking account fees can add up. The average fee for a non-interest-bearing account is $5.57 per month. The average fee for an interest-bearing account is $14.35 per month. That’s an average of $66.84 per year or a $172.20 per year respectively.

I don’t know about you, but I like to hold on to my money and not give it away for stuff that I don’t need to pay for. That includes checking accounts with fees.

It’s a good idea to shop around for the right checking account. Each bank and credit union has different rules and it’s important to ask the details of what you get and what is required for a free checking account.

Here are some ways you can avoid minimize the amount of checking account and ATM fees.

Avoiding Overdraft Fees

Overdraft fees are expensive! The average overdraft fee in 2018 was $33.23. And if you overdraft multiple items in a row you can get hit with multiple fees.

One of the best ways to avoid overdraft fees is to link your checking and savings account and then keep a buffer in your savings. That way if you overdraft your checking account, it pulls from your savings instead of charging a fee.

Many banks also now have alerts that you can set up on your phone so that you know when your account is getting low and aren’t surprised. These alerts can really help you avoid overdraft fees.

Avoiding ATM Surcharge Fees

There are several ways to avoid getting hit with a fee at an ATM. The average ATM surcharge fee is now $4.68. That’s a lot of money to make a withdrawal!

The key to avoiding ATM surcharge fees is to use in-network ATMs.

Where I live, there is a popular gas station and convenience store chain called Wawa. Every one of these locations (and there a lot of them) has an ATM that does not charge a fee.

So, if you’re using an in-network card then you'll end up paying no fee at all for using the ATM. If you're using an out of network card then you'll only pay the fee from your bank; as opposed to many ATMs where you'll get hit with both a bank fee and ATM fee.

Understanding what ATMs are in your network and which ones aren’t will help you avoid ATM fees.

There’s also a trend in banking right now that some banks are covering out of network ATM fees for you. This is a nice perk if you can find it and it’s worth looking around for.

The bottom line is that banking is a competitive business. If you allow your bank to charge a bunch of fees without shopping around, then you’re likely to have to pay more money than you need to.

For some of the best deals in banking, you may want to consider an online bank. These banks have much lower overhead and often offer better rates on checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit.

Using an online bank does take some getting used to, and you want to know what their ATM policies are because that’s where you’ll normally be accessing your money. But even with the learning curve, online banks can be a very good deal.

When you earn money you should try to keep as much of it as possible in your own pocket. That’s the way you build wealth.