Tips to avoid costly bank fees

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PHOENIX – A new federal law is supposed to make financial institutions more accountable by forcing them to fully disclose all banking fees up front. 

It's supposed to help consumers but a survey recently released suggests only 40 percent of banks and credit unions across the nation are complying.

With that in mind, experts suggest consumers should educate themselves and take proactive steps to avoid bank fees.

For example, according to www.walletpop.com consumers should choose small banks.  Local or regional banks tend to be more consumer-friendly and offer better rates than big banks.

Also, look for free checking. There's no reason to pay to have a checking account and most banks waive the fee if you have direct deposit so look into that.

You should also bank electronically, which means have your bank statements sent to your email instead mailing it to you.   

Banking electronically usually cuts out an unnecessary fee.

Combine bank accounts. Doing this usually puts consumers over a minimum balance and a minimum balance usually carries a fee.

Beware of new debit cards. Some banks plan on charging monthly debit card fees so make sure yours isn't one of them.

Finally, comparison shop. Several websites like www.bankrate.com compare rates and fees so stay informed.

If all else fails, haggle with your bank or credit union. Banks are being more competitive so they may make an exception to keep your business.