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How to avoid annoying bank fees

A lot of these fees seem unfair and disproportionately high for the service rendered.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 28, 2011 8:52AM
This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.

CNNMoney has a slideshow of the 9 most annoying bank fees, which inspired me to explain the best ways to avoid them. Fortunately, there are simple solutions to many of these issues.


Forgetting to update your address. Apparently, some banks will charge you if they mail you a statement and it comes back undeliverable. This fee seems unfair and exists only so that you remember to update your address. The easiest way to avoid this fee is to go with paperless statements, so that you get an email instead of a letter.


Going paperless can help the environment and, in some cases, is more secure depending on what type of mailbox you have. Ultimately, it's still important to keep an updated address on file since the bank will need to send you tax documents.


Cashing in your coins. Many banks used to offer free coin-counting services but nowadays a 5% fee isn't unexpected. The easiest way to avoid this is to use your credit and debit cards more often so you don't have to get coins in the first place. If you have a lot of coins, one option is to use Coinstar machines and trade your money in for gift cards for Amazon or other stores. It's certainly not ideal, and you sacrifice any cash back you might get on purchases there, but it's a fine alternative.

Talking to a human teller. The CNNMoney example was of an e-banking account that charges you $8.95 a month if you want to access branches and talk to tellers. It's quite easy to never use a teller at a bank as long as you have access to an ATM. Most of your transactions will be a simple deposit or withdrawal, neither of which needs a teller. Or simply don't get an account that charges this fee.


Losing your debit card. Unfortunately, this is one fee you can't avoid unless you avoid losing your debit card. This fee -- often $5 and much more for expedited replacement -- is understandable in part because producing another card does have a tangible cost, though, as is the case with all these fees, it's certainly not on the level of the fee itself.

Getting a paper statement. You can kill two birds with one stone -- this fee and the first one about forgetting your address -- by going paperless. Banks that charge you a dollar or two to receive a paper statement are not so subtlely hinting that you should go electronic. Going electronic is better anyway.


Requesting old statements. While this fee may seem annoying, it sounds fair to me. Fortunately, you can easily avoid this by going online and looking for these statements yourself. If you've signed up for electronic statements, you can save statements yourself in a folder and not take up much space at all. Since it does take time for a bank employee to look up your records, I can understand charging for this.


Receiving money. I don't receive wire transfers so I'm not entirely sure how annoying this fee is, though I suppose any fee gets annoying after a while. Apparently Chase and PNC both charge you $15 to receive a wire transfer. There are other ways to receive payment and some of them don't cost anything except time (such as a check).


Redeeming rewards points. This refers to redeeming rewards points toward airline tickets. The fee is typically used to cover a federal excise tax associated with airline tickets. The easiest way to avoid this is by getting a rewards credit card that gives you airline miles without charging you a fee. It's annoying but 100% predictable and avoidable.


Closing your account. Seems unfair that banks would charge you a fee for closing your account, right? It turns out that they only do this if you close it within 180 or fewer days of opening it. These fees are typically used to compensate for folks who open accounts simply for the bank promotional deal that month. Since banks are paying out a promotion and incur the cost of setting up an account, they want to make sure you stick around as long as possible.


As you can see, some of these fees are more annoying than others but ultimately many of them can be avoided. If you do get dinged for a fee, it never hurts to ask that they waive that fee. The worst that can happen is that they say no.  


More on Bargaineering and MSN Money:

Jun 28, 2011 11:40AM

Sorry, but I can't justify any of the bank fees.  They get the use of my money when it is deposited ... and it is MY money.  I can't go electronic until the internet is more secure and reliable and not everyone has a computer anyway.  I'd rather keep my cash under the proverbial mattress than pay banks who crippled this economy by making reckless decisions.


A fee to speak with a teller on that rare occasion when needed!? Give me a break!

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