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7 common fees of checking accounts and how to avoid them

Checking accounts offer quick and easy access to your money, but you may incur fees, however many are avoidable.

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Checking accounts offer quick and easy access to your money, but you may incur a fee for having one, or even using an ATM.

On average, checking account holders incur fees of $9.87 per month ($118 annually), according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). That number more than doubles to $29.09 per month ($349 annually) for account holders who opt in to certain penalty fees, such as overdraft charges that occur when you spend more than the amount in your account.

If you want to get the most benefit from your checking account, familiarize yourself with all of its fees for both penalties and normal use. Below, we list seven common fees and tips on how you can avoid them.

Common checking account fees

1. Monthly service fee

One of the most common characteristics of a checking account is the monthly fee that banks or credit unions charge to maintain your account. These account maintenance fees often range up to $15.

How to avoid monthly service fees: Many accounts provide the opportunity to waive the monthly fee if you meet certain requirements. This may include maintaining a minimum balance, setting up direct deposit and/or enrolling in paperless statements. You can also consider no-fee checking accounts that don't charge monthly fees at all.

2. Overdraft fee

If you spend more than the amount in your account, resulting in a negative balance, you may be hit with a steep overdraft fee up to $35. This is the most expensive and common type of fee you may incur since you can incur it several times a day.

How to avoid overdraft fees: The simplest way to avoid overdraft fees is to maintain a positive account balance at all times. That said, there may still be instances where your balance is low and you may overdraw money.

If you want to avoid overdraft fees, enroll in overdraft protection, which can transfer money from a linked bank account. This protection often comes at a fee, but it's often less than the overdraft fee.

For instance, the Bank of America® Advantage Plus Banking Account charges a $12 fee per transfer from a linked bank account, which is less than the $35 overdraft fee.

3. Non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee

If you write a check and it bounces (meaning it's returned to you) because there isn't enough money in your bank account, you'll likely incur a NSF fee. This fee costs up to $35, just like overdraft fees.

How to avoid NSF fees: Check that you have enough money in your account before writing any checks. Also consider enrolling in overdraft protection that links your checking account to another bank account. Note that there may still be a fee for transfers from another account.

4. ATM fee

When you use ATMs that aren't affiliated with your bank or credit union, you may be hit with two fees: one from your bank/credit union and another from the ATM operator. Banks charge around $1.63 while ATM operators charge roughly $3.09, according to a recent Bankrate survey.

How to avoid ATM fees: Stick to ATMs that are in your bank or credit union's network and don't cost anything. If you frequently use ATMs that are out-of-network, consider switching bank accounts to one that reimburses out-of-network ATM fees or has in-network ATMs near you.

5. Paper statement fee

Many banks and credit unions encourage you to enroll in paperless statements to protect the environment, but also to help you avoid paper statement fees. These fees may be $5 per statement and can add up.

How to avoid paper statement fees: Simply enroll in paperless statements, which allows you to view and print your statements for free at home.

6. Foreign transaction fee

If you use your debit card to make purchases or withdraw money from an ATM outside of the U.S., you'll often incur a fee that's a percentage of the U.S. dollar amount of the transaction.

How to avoid foreign transaction fees: Use a debit card or credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees when you're traveling abroad.

7. Account closure fee

If you close your account within 90 to 180 days of opening it, you may incur an account closure fee around $25.

How to avoid account closure fees: Review the terms of your checking account to see how long your account needs to remain open to avoid the fee.

Bottom line

Checking accounts have numerous fees that can cost you hundreds. In order to avoid the fees mentioned above, meet any requirements that can waive monthly service fees, ensure you have a positive balance and responsibly manage your account.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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