As a nation we spend billions of dollars on fees every year. This shouldn't shock you -- you probably contribute to that statistic when you use the ATM, pay a credit card bill late or simply miscalculate how much you have in your checking account. If you're looking to save money in 2009, rather than cutting back on things that add value to your life like shopping, dining out, or traveling, cut back on something that adds no value at all: fees.
1. ATM Fees - When you use an ATM that isn't associated with your home bank, expect to get dinged on both ends of the transaction for an average cost of about $4 a hit. If you're making a withdrawal of $100, that's a 4% vig for nothing. Say you did that once a week, for a year (and many of us do it much more often than that) and you'd spend $208 on ATM fees that could easily be avoided by using your own bank's ATM kiosks for free. Using your own bank's ATM means planning ahead and anticipating your route but you'll be much better off in the end.
2. Late Payment Fees - The average credit card late fee is about $34. You might look at that number and think that it's not a big deal, but for someone who carefully watches their interest rates or pays their balance in full to try to beat the system, a seemingly innocent late fee is equivalent to paying 14% interest on a balance of $2,900. The solution to avoiding late fees in '09 is to bank online and automate bill payments, a service that most banks provide customers for free.
3. Overdraft Fees - We've all written a check here and there that pushes us into overdraft territory by accident. Luckily, banks provide courtesy overdraft protection, but that protection comes at an average cost of about $29 a pop. If you overdraft your account ten times per year, you'll watch $290 go up in smoke. Some simple tips on avoiding overdraft fees include improving your record-keeping. One way to do that is by banking online so you have instant access to up-to-date account balance information. You can also opt out of courtesy overdraft plans all together and sign up for traditional overdraft protection from your savings account, usually for a lower onetime fee.
Jackie DeAngelis is a writer and producer at CNBC. Previously she worked as a financial analyst at Oaktree Capital Mgmt. Jackie earned her J.D. from Rutgers Law School in 2008 and her B.A. in Asian Studies from Cornell University in 2002