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  • Writer's pictureMMH CPA

5 Tips for Better Banking

Banks are a necessary tool to navigate our daily financial lives. Unfortunately, there are complicated practices at many banks that can be an inconvenience or cost us more money. Here are five tips to get more out of your bank and pay less.

1. Remove cash from the right place. Try to avoid using an ATM machine that is not in your bank's network. In-network cash withdrawals cost nothing at most banks, but withdrawals from someone else's machine may come with a $3 to $5 fee.

Look on the back of your ATM or debit card and note the networks on the back of the card or ask your bank about their network coverage. Try to only use ATMs within the network. Test a transaction to ensure no fee is included on your statement.

2. Notify your credit card issuer when traveling. Most credit card-issuing banks now automatically freeze your cards when a suspicious transaction occurs out of state. This freeze often includes foreign website transactions.

Call your credit card issuer when you are going to be traveling. Also notify them if you wish to order an item from a foreign website. This can alleviate numerous headaches. While some banks may not block out-of-state transactions, you do not want to to have a transaction rejected while purchasing something on a trip.

3. Know your bank's overdraft rules. Non-sufficient funds (NSF) checks are not only embarrassing, they are expensive. Banks make millions on their overdraft fees and automatic loan features when you overdraw your account. Understand your bank's fees and how they apply your payments.

Look for a bank that will allow you to link another account to your checking account without charging a fee. For instance, as a courtesy many credit unions allow you to link a savings account to your core checking account. Funds from your savings account are used should you inadvertently overdraw your checking account.

4. Negotiate fees. If you are a long-standing customer with your bank or credit card company, call them to reduce or waive fees. Good examples of this are over-the-limit credit card fees or late payment fees. If you have multiple checking overdraft fees, negotiate to eliminate as many as possible.

If you are late in paying your credit card or have an overdraft, fix the problem as soon as possible. Only after fixing the problem should you call to negotiate the fees. The bank customer service representative will see your quick action and be more likely to help reduce the fees.

5. Be willing to shop. Banks know it's a pain to change banking institutions. But if you are willing to do so, you might be surprised to find better alternatives for less. Also consider convenience features such as online banking, online bill pay, mobile app, loan services, local branches, and additional financial services.

Check into credit unions, online banks, and other alternatives to traditional banking institutions. Make sure that deposits are FDIC-insured to protect your money in the unlikely event of a bank failure.

Interest on savings accounts varies widely from bank to bank. Use the internet to quickly compare who is paying what interest rates on savings accounts. Do the same for any loans, especially car loans, which can vary widely in interest rates.

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