If you’re trying to get ahead in life you need to have a solid financial plan. As part of your plan, you probably already know it’s important to save as much as possible and to not spend money foolishly. What you may not know is just how much of your cash can slip through the cracks if you’re not careful. And one way a lot of people spend money without even realizing it is in bank fees. You have to be diligent to beat the banks and keep as much of your hard-earned money as possible! Below we show you how.
Why shop around for banks
Banks and credit unions have different offers all the time. They all have marketing departments whose job it is to entice you to get you to become a customer. So they’re always thinking of new ideas to woo you. That great offer you received a week ago may expire sooner than you think so if you’re interested, don’t wait to take advantage of it. Similarly, if you’re not seeing any offers at your bank that you like, just wait a few weeks. They’ll change!
While you're at it, you should scout out different banks to see what they're offering as well. Local banks always have different offers so it pays to look around at different banks and see what’s being offered. There’s no reason you have to be tied to one single bank. You can and probably should have accounts at multiple banks.
How to organize your accounts
There are a hundred different ways to organize your checking and savings accounts. If you’re looking to beat the banks and not pay fees, some ways are better than others. I personally like to have a few different bank accounts. Here are my suggestions:
Checking account at local bank
It’s best to have your checking account at a local bank. You want to be able to get your hands on money in your checking account at a moment’s notice if need be. When looking for the best checking account, go to several local bank websites and look to see what kind of checking accounts they offer. Find one with zero fees or very low fees and low minimum balance conditions. Remember just because you’ve always banked at a certain bank doesn’t mean you have to stay with them forever!
Savings account at online bank
To beat the banks at their own game I like to have my savings account at an online bank. It’s not as important to be able to access the funds in your savings account immediately so it’s ok to have your savings accounts with an online bank. The payoff will be higher interest rates! Because online only banks don’t have the brick and mortar buildings to pay for, they can pay higher interest rates.
Multiple savings accounts based on savings goals
Another tactic I like to use to beat the banks is to have multiple savings accounts based on my savings goals. I like to have an online savings account that I use for long-term savings goals like my emergency fund. I also typically have a savings account at a local bank, which's different from where I have my checking account. This account is for our vacation fund and our Christmas account. So it’s money I’ll need within the year, but not right away. And finally, I have a savings account at the same bank where I have my checking account. It’s easy to auto-transfer funds from my checking account into my savings.
How to avoid bank fees and beat the banks
Here are some key tips to avoid those pesky bank fees!
Find accounts with no maintenance fees
The average monthly maintenance fee for checking accounts that pay interest is over $15 per month. Obviously, this is not something that you want to pay each month. So, the first strategy to avoid bank fees and beat the banks is to find accounts with no fees. It’s easier to find savings accounts with no fees, but it’s also possible to find free checking accounts. Many banks and credit unions have no-fee accounts. In fact, free checking is becoming more commonplace. A quick google search of free checking accounts in your city should help you narrow down your options.
There are a lot of online-only banks that charge very low fees or don’t charge fees at all, so you’ll definitely want to check out online banking options.
Keep minimums to avoid balance requirement fees
While there are some free checking accounts out there, many do have minimum balance requirements. For instance, you can beat the banks and avoid the $10 monthly checking account fee if you have a minimum daily balance of $500 or higher. Or you can also avoid the monthly fee if you have at least $500 monthly in direct deposits. Either option shouldn’t be too hard for most people.
Don’t bounce checks
Most people rarely write checks anymore. And this is probably a good thing. Checks seem so antiquated. But there are still some times where there’s absolutely no way around writing a check. Keep track of any and all checks you write! This is so important because you don’t want to get hit with a big non-sufficient funds fee!
Bouncing checks is just one reason you need a budget. A budget puts you in control of your money. With a budget, you tell your money what to do, not the other way around. A lot of people think a budget is very limiting but in reality, it’s the opposite. If you don’t have a budget, you need one!
Avoid fees for non-sufficient funds
Banks also charge the non-sufficient funds fee anytime you don’t have enough in your account to cover your purchases - so anytime you swipe your debit card but your balance isn’t enough to cover it. And these fees are huge! The average NSF (non-sufficient funds) fees are around $30 and go up from there! And, if you have multiple transactions that come through you’ll get hit with a fee for each and every transition. So a big way to beat the banks is to make sure you never pay a fee for having insufficient funds! Just don’t do it!
How to make credit cards work for you
If you aren’t using credit cards to pay your bills, you’re leaving money on the table. If you play your credit cards right, this is definitely one area where you can beat the banks.
Take advantage of intro offers & signup bonuses
Like I said before, banks want your business. One very large and lucrative piece of business they want is your credit card business. Banks make money not only on any interest you pay when you don’t pay your balance in full but also on the interchange. This means every time you swipe your card, the bank earns a small percentage of that sale. So they’ll go to crazy lengths to get your business and this includes some really nice welcome bonuses and introductory offers.
Pay your balance in full each month
Whatever you do, make sure you pay your credit card balance in full each month. Beat the banks at their own game by not paying any interest! If you don’t pay your card in full each month, then any bonus you get will be negated by the interest you’re paying. So be responsible and only charge what you can afford to pay off each month.
How to get your loan rates lowered
Unfortunately, once you have received a loan, it can be impossible to change anything with that specific loan. However, there are other things you might be able to do to help with the interest rate.
Research what other banks are offering
If you got a loan and rates have since gone down, check around to see what loan rates other banks are offering. Just because you got a loan a couple of years ago doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck with that loan. It’s possible to get a new loan with better terms at another bank and then pay off the original loan. And if you go for a secured loan your loan interest rate will probably be lower.
Reach out to your bank to negotiate
Try reaching out to your own bank where the original loan was taken and see if they’d be willing to give you a rate reduction. Most big banks may not be willing to negotiate at all, but you never know. They might work with you especially if you’ve paid the loan on time up to this point. And if you have details on what the loan rates are at other local banks, that information will work in your favor. Also to note is that sometimes smaller banks and credit unions can have more wiggle room and may be easier to negotiate with.
You can beat the banks!
As you can see, there are lots of ways for you to beat the banks and keep more of your money in your pockets. All you have to do is a little research to see what banks are offering and spend a little time organizing your finances. Once you do these two things, you’re likely to come out ahead!