The whole point of having a bank account is to have money to store in that account in case you need it for expenses, fun or a rainy day emergency. Whether you only have a checking account or also have other types of accounts, the last thing you want or need is to have the funds you deposited get eaten up with banking fees. Yet this happens far more frequently than you might imagine. It might even be happening to you right now if you haven't been keeping a careful eye on the banking fees you’re being charged—yikes! Be aware that the competitive nature of the today's banking industry can work in your favor when it comes to disputing fees. What this means is, you can often get banks to reverse fees that you weren’t alerted to or fees you didn’t authorize. Just make it clear that the fee charges are a sticking point that might lose that bank your business.

Tips to help you skip banking fees

  • ATM fees: If you use your own bank's ATM, you can pretty much guarantee you’ll be able to deposit, withdraw and check your balance fee-free. But steer clear of unknown ATMs! Instead, choose the "cash back" option at retail stores when shopping away from home.
  • Checking account fees: If you write a lot of checks, be sure to check the fine print to find out when fees kick in. Some banks charge a fee if you write more (or fewer) than a certain number of checks per month. Other banks will waive checking account fees if you open a linked savings account and maintain a certain minimum balance. Signing up for direct deposit for paychecks and bill pay online can help you avoid checking account fees.
  • Overdraft fees: Banks are becoming stricter about fees for customers who regularly overdraft their account—even when those same customers have linked accounts to supposedly cover such instances! Overdraft fees average $35 per transaction causing customers to spend up to $20 billion in such fees annually. Be sure you understand your bank's policy on overdraft fees and that you learn about any programs you can sign up for to protect you against overdrawing your account.
  • Check-ordering fees: While it’s reasonable to pay a shipping fee if you need to order new checks, be wary of fees for the checks themselves. Banks typically provide at least one type of check that’s basic and free of charge as well as another variety of custom checks with fancy designs or monograms. Unless you need personalized checks for a business, opt for the free basic checks and save your pennies.
  • Minimum-balance fees: Finally, some types of accounts (both checking and savings) will penalize customers who allow the balance to fall below a certain minimum amount. It’s easy to forget about these constraints when life gets hectic. If you don’t trust yourself to maintain the required balance, ask about switching to another type of account that’s unrestricted. You can also ask what other controls you can put in place, such as automatic mobile alerts (many banks now have apps) to guard against paying fees for balance minimums.