If you don’t take care with how you manage your money, you can be paying costly bank fees that you could possibly avoid.
According to Bankrate.com’s most recent analysis on checking accounts and ATM costs, a sizable chunk of your budget might be eaten up by overdraft or non-sufficient fund penalties, fees for interest-bearing and non-interest-bearing checking accounts, and fees for ATM use.
The study from the personal finance website examines how costly those fines may become as well as strategies for avoiding them.
Overdraft costs, which are among the most costly penalties, have decreased to a 13-year low for the average rate, which is currently $29.80.
“Despite all the attention given to a handful of banks that are adopting more consumer-friendly overdraft policies, 96% of accounts still charge overdraft fees,” said Greg McBride, Bankrate.com’s chief financial analyst.
Fees for overdrafts and insufficient funds
According to Bankrate.com, the average overdraft cost has decreased 11% from the previous year to $29.80. Overdraft fees are usually assessed after a payment is made even though there aren’t enough funds in the account.
The average non-sufficient funds cost is currently $26.58, down 21% from the previous year. Normally, non-sufficient fund fees are assessed when a payment is declined because there are not enough money in the account.
The amount of the fees varies depending on the metro area, according to Bankrate.com.
The average overdraft fee was $35.50 in Pittsburgh, $34.84 in Cleveland, and $34.45 in Denver. Miami, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco were the cities with the highest average overdraft fees, while Miami had the lowest average overdraft fee of just $21.05.
According to McBride, there are few important strategies to avoid these fees.
You may be able to prevent overdrawing by keeping track of your available account balance before you begin transactions, for instance, if a check you placed hasn’t yet cleared.
Furthermore, McBride added, linking your checking account to a small savings account with the same bank can serve as a buffer, preventing the bank from charging you a fee for temporarily filling the gap.
Maintenance charges for checking accounts
According to Bankrate.com, the average monthly fee for interest checking accounts has decreased from $16.35 last year, which was a record high, to $16.19 this year.
The average balance needed to avoid a monthly fee is currently $9,658, which is a decrease of 2.4% from $9,897 in the previous year.
However, the average necessary amount for this year is 28% higher than the record-setting $7,550 it was in 2020, as reported by Bankrate.com.
Interest checking accounts have historically low average yields of 0.03%, despite their high fees and balance requirements.
75% of interest-bearing checking accounts have a minimum balance requirement. However, 7% of those accounts are free, and 15% of those accounts waive those costs for direct deposits.
46% of non-interest checking accounts are “free,” meaning they have no monthly fees or minimum balance limitations. For those who do charge, the typical monthly price has increased to $5.44 from $5.08 last year, a 7% increase. The typical balance needed to avoid those costs is $539.04, an increase from $506.62 in the previous year of 6.4%.
According to Bankrate.com, 53% of free accounts eliminate monthly fees in accordance with direct deposits, account balances, transaction activity, or a mix of direct deposits and transaction activity.
Even still, McBride suggested that customers look for a free checking account without a minimum balance or monthly fees if they want to avoid paying costs.
Even if an account has a monthly cost, he noted, you might be able to get it waived by using direct deposit.
Check the small print on all of your correspondence and bank statements as well.
“Make sure you aren’t suddenly incurring fees or that there hasn’t been a balance requirement that’s been instituted,” McBride said.
ATM charges for using machines outside of networks
ATM surcharge costs, which are levied when non-customers use an ATM and are charged a fee by the owner of the ATM, are currently at a record average of $3.14.
Many banks do not charge their own customers for using an ATM outside of their network, even though every bank that has an ATM charges non-customers for withdrawals.
The average charge for clients who use banks outside of their network is $1.52, up from $1.51 the previous year.
The average price of an out-of-network withdrawal is currently $4.66 when you add the two ATM fees.
The average ATM cost varies by metro area, with $5.38 being the highest in Atlanta. Phoenix is next at $5.24, followed by Detroit at $5.29.
The lowest average ATM cost was found in Los Angeles, where it was $4.21, followed by Seattle ($4.23) and Minneapolis ($4.24).
Notably, these charges can be avoided.
“Plan ahead as to where and when you make the withdrawal and aim to do so within the network,” McBride said. “Don’t make a habit of making out-of-network ATM withdrawals, because the fees can quickly add up.”