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7 Essential Ways To Avoid Unnecessary Bank Charges

7 Essential Ways To Avoid Unnecessary Bank Charges

With more than a third of Americans struggling to pay debts, people need to watch their bank accounts closely for unnecessary charges. Even a handful of bank charges could push a person deeper into debt, making it difficult to recover financially. Follow these 7 essential tips to avoid bank charges and keep the money that belongs to you.

1. Understand What Your Bank Can Charge

The government sets regulations that prevent banks from charging outlandish fees. For instance, banks used to charge overdraft fees for each purchase that exceeded the account balance. If you purchased three things in one day, then you could get charged three overdraft fees. The bank would fund the purchase, but at a steep penalty. Today, banks must give customers the option to opt in or out of overdraft protection.

Despite some regulations, banks still get to charge relatively high fees for simple mistakes and services. Always read the fine print before opening an account. If your bank updates its policies, read the new fee structures so you understand exactly what your bank can charge.

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2. Search for Banks Without Unnecessary Charges

Not all banks try to make money out of every transaction. If you’re tired of paying fees for things like ATM withdrawals and talking to a teller, search for banks that don’t charge for those services. There are plenty of options, including credit unions and online banks.

3. Bundle Services to Avoid Bank Fees

Banks want you to use as many services as possible, so they eliminate certain fees for customers who use bundled services. Someone with a checking account might have to pay a small monthly fee. Adding a savings account could lower or eliminate that fee.

Talk to your bank about how bundled services could help you avoid unnecessary fees. If you’re not satisfied with the response, start exploring alternatives with better, cheaper services.

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4. Avoid Overdraft Fees by Keeping Enough Money in Your Accounts

Banks usually charge overdraft fees when you spend more money than you have in your account. Keeping a close eye on your checking and saving balances will help you avoid overdraft fees that can cost up to $37.

Banks often charge fees for continuous transfers, so you may want to consider using a money transfer service, like Ria Money Transfer, to avoid these charges. Doing so could help you avoid numerous fees and potentially overdrafting your bank account.

5. Use Online Banking to Avoid Paper Statement Fees

Now that most banks offer online services, members may have to pay extra for paper statements. As long as you have a computer and Internet connection, you can avoid those paper statement fees.

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Most banks will let you choose whether you want paper or electronic statements. Ask if you have to pay for paper statements. If you do, consider opting out of that service. You’ll spend less money printing your online statements than having the bank send you paper versions in the mail.

6. Choose an Account With Fewer Charges

Even at the same bank, members may pay different amounts for similar services. You can save money by choosing an option that matches the way you prefer using your account. For instance, if you prefer going inside the bank to talk to a teller, you may have to pay a fee unless your account covers the service. Other accounts may charge for using ATMs.

Find an account that will charge you less for the services you plan to use.

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7. Ask the Bank to Waive Fees

Banks want to make extra money by charging fees, but they don’t want to lose long-term customers over piddling amounts. If you receive a charge that you think is unfair, contact the bank to ask about waiving the fee. Many banks will remove the charge from your account to keep your business.

Some research shows that 44 percent of people have convinced their banks to forgive fees. You’re more likely to get a refund by talking to service reps nicely and moving up the chain of command until you find someone authorized to remove the fee.

Since banks want to keep their best customers, long-term members without previous charges may have more success.

Featured photo credit: Image vis Flickr by SimpleIllustration via flickr.com

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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