Most people use a bank for predictable services such as payroll direct deposit, check cashing, or paying a mortgage. In those situations, it is the customer who supports the bank because the financial institution benefits from a monthly paycheck deposit, fee payments and interest.

So how about a reversal? Why not make your bank work for you?

It's easier than it sounds. Banks offer lots of services that customers can use for zero cost. Here’s how:

Financial planning

Bankers have specific expertise and a multitude of helpful software at their disposal. Put those resources to use and receive free financial planning assistance. Want to save more on a monthly basis? Start a vacation fund? Consider retirement options? Ask a dedicated financial planning associate at the bank for ideas. Set up a free meeting and inquire about services offered by the bank as well as free software available (my bank offers a no-cost video game to help teenagers learn about money). You might learn that the free options your bank offers (like a child's savings account plan, online bill pay, or electronic financial calculators and expense tracking) are the way to get finances in order. Note: Larger chain banks will likely have more options available than local banks.

Garage sale supplies

One Friday, I approached the teller window to get rolls of change. We made small talk about the weekend, and I told the cashier I was preparing for a garage sale. She promptly gave me not only my requested rolls of change and stacks of small bills but also handed me a free zippered money bag and coin rolls in case I ended up with more change to bring back. She even offered to let me post a flyer on their community bulletin board. All of this was "on the house." A friend told me her local bank loans metal money boxes (for free) to customers for use in garage sales, auctions, estate sales and fundraisers. It doesn't hurt to inquire and see if your bank offers similar perks for customers.

Earn a promotional gift

Banks offer various promotions throughout the year (for example, these Wells Fargo plush ponies). Check out Hustler Money Blog to learn more about current bank promotions offering cash, air miles, electronics, and other deals. Note: Always check with the actual bank to ensure the promotion is still active and to make sure you follow the exact protocol to earn the gift.

Stock up at customer appreciation day

Most banks offer customer appreciation celebrations at least once a year. There might be balloons and punch, but the real advantage of attending is to see the other goodies customers can score. Giveaways could include promotional items (calculators, pens, or checkbook covers), financial literature (planning guides and checklists) and raffles (I once won a specially-minted silver dollar!). Additionally, this is often the time when special financial deals are offered, such as a higher-than-usual Certificate of Deposit interest rate or a no-rate checking account option.

Score big at kids' events

Last summer, my bank offered a fun "kick-off-the-summer" event for kids. It included a coloring contest, kids' games in the lobby, giveaways, and a short money seminar for children. Of course, bankers were ready to help them deposit money or open a savings account that day, but it was also a fun and educational way to spend an hour with my son, and it didn't cost me a dime! Your bank may even help sponsor kids' events within the community or have some online services especially for children.

 This is a guest post by Audrey from Texas
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