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11 Annoying Bank Fees You Can Avoid

11 Annoying Bank Fees You Can Avoid

It is difficult to operate in today’s world without a bank account, yet the fees charged by many banks may make customers wonder if they would be better off stashing cash in their mattresses.  The best defense against bank fees is knowing what they are and how to avoid them.  Here are ten of the most common:

1. Minimum Balance Fee

Some banks require accounts to have a minimum balance.You may be charged a fee if you don’t meet this requirement.  In some cases, your account may even be closed if you leave it underfunded and unattended. To avoid this, call your bank, ask exactly how much money you need to have in your account, and keep your balance above that minimum.

2. Account Closing Fee

You might be charged a small fee for closing your account at certain banks.  You should ask about account closing fees before you open an account.  If the fees are unreasonable, choose another bank.  Another strategy to avoid this fee is to withdraw all funds from an account, but leave it open. You can open an account elsewhere and treat this one as “closed”. The bank will likely close it on its own after some time at a zero balance. Be sure that your bank doesn’t charge an inactivity fee if you use this option.

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3. Inactivity Fee

This is relatively uncommon, but a bank might assess a fee to an account that has been inactive for some time. If this applies to your account, make sure to “check in” at least once a month with a transaction or two. This can be as simple as grabbing $20 from the ATM, or as automatic as getting direct deposit for your paychecks.

4. Lost Debit Card Fee

If you misplace your debit card, many banks will charge you to replace it. This fee is usually worth paying, to give you the convenience of easy on-the go account access and peace of mind knowing that your lost card can’t be used by someone who finds it. Some banks may offer a temporary card at the local branch, foregoing the cost of rush delivery of the replacement. Nothing, however, beats due diligence in keeping track of your card so you don’t lose it in the first place.

5. Foreign Transaction Fee

Most banks will charge a fee for withdrawing cash in another country. There is little you can do to get around this, but you might be able to find a more favorable fee by exchanging your cash elsewhere. Consider visiting a currency exchange institution before your trip to compare the conversion fees. Some banks don’t charge for foreign transactions; if you are a frequent international traveler,  find these banks and do business with them.

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6. Paper Statement Fee

It’s 2013, and almost every bank wants to avoid mailing you a paper statement if they can, and they may charge you a fee as an incentive to go paperless.  If you’re a tech-savvy individual, you probably don’t want a paper statement anyway. So, opt out. Every major bank offers this option. Instead of a paper statement, you will receive electronic statements via the bank’s online portal or by email. You’re also doing the environment a favor!

7. Online Bill Pay Fee

Some banks will charge you to use their online bill-paying service. If this is the case, investigate other bill-paying portals or find a bank that offers this service without a charge. You will find that most of your bills can be paid online for free via the billing party’s own website.  Use your debit card and the funds will come directly out of your checking account with no fee.

8. Overdraft Fee

Almost every bank will charge you for an overdraft. Obviously, you should avoid this fee by not spending more than you have. To avoid accidental overdrafts, call and ask your bank to decline transactions on your debit card when the funds are not available. It is possible to set up automatic transfers from savings to cover overdrafts, and many banks offer overdraft protection that is less expensive than the fees for insufficient funds. If you do accidentally overdraw, you may be able to ask your bank for forgiveness once or twice, especially if you have a good banking history with few overdrafts.

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9. Insufficient Funds Fee

There is a subtle difference between and overdraft fee and an insufficient funds fee. Both are caused by initiating a transaction for more money than you have in your account.  In the case of an overdraft, the bank pays the item and charges you a fee, leaving your account balance in the negative.  If the bank returns the item (usually a check) without paying it, this activates an insufficient funds fee.  The amount may or may not be the same as for an overdraft, and often there will be an additional returned check fee imposed by the company that had the unpaid check returned.

10. Service Fee

These are small, usually inconsequential fees for various services the bank may offer upon request.  Some fee-based services include statement printouts, stop-payment charges, and checking account reconciliation or research. Some of these fees can be avoided by careful record keeping.  You may also be able to get around these fees by researching online options, such as downloadable statement PDFs. Ask your bank what they will and will not charge you for, and plan accordingly.

11. Returned Deposit Fee

When a check that you have deposited bounces or there is some questionable or missing element on said check, you will likely be assessed a returned deposit fee. Double-check all deposits to be sure that they are properly filled out and signed, and only take checks from people or institutions that you trust.

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Keep in mind that there are exceptions to everything on this list.  Any reputable institution will offer you a fee schedule, including the exact details of how fees are charged and how to avoid them.  Take  responsibility for being informed, and you will save your hard-earned cash.

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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