Save money by avoiding bank fees

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- With the holidays just around the corner, we could all use a little extra money. And while we can't give ourselves a raise, we may be able to put a little extra cash in our pockets.

It turns out the bank is a good place to start, because if you can avoid some fees, that’s cash in our pocket.

At first it might sound like a sales pitch, but experts say actually sitting down with a banker is a good idea.

“One of the best places you could go is visit a local branch, says Samantha Simonetti-Sturgeon with Chase Bank. She says there is no one-size-fits-all option if you are looking for fee free accounts.

“We would ask some questions. We are going to want to understand how they do their banking," she says. "When they typically come in, how they would prefer to do their banking.”

But that said, across the industry there are some key things that usually will waive checking account fees. Those include direct deposit, online bill pay, keeping a certain minimum balance and linking accounts.

“Absolutely, linking various accounts together can definitely save you money and fees and can upgrade your package,” says Simonetti-Sturgeon.

Another thing she says to look at is whether you can upgrade the package with linked accounts or a higher balance. If so, you may get things like free checks or a safe deposit box; things you would normally pay for.

Also take advantage of special groups or categories you fall into, Simonetti-Sturgeon says. “So there are a lot of unique options to offer consumers," she tells us.

At Chase, for example, there are accounts with no fees for active service members, veterans, students under 19, and some college students.

And it is not all about service fees. “We do offer options where clients can make a choice about how they want their debit card to work, which can help them avoid fees, as well as we have several options for overdraft protection,” Simonetti-Sturgeon points out.

Again, using Chase as an example, you could say yes to covering every debit card purchase, which could result in a fee, or you could say no to approving the transaction to avoid fees.

Simonetti-Sturgeon says another way to help avoid the overdraft would be to get money in by the end of the business day, using ATMs. ”You have until 11:00 Eastern time across the entire country to do a same-day deposit.”

Experts say you may also want to look at banks that are online only. Many of these offer lower or no-fee accounts as well.

And it is not all about fees at the bank. Using mobile or online banking may help you better manage other bills to avoid late fees there.

Simonetti-Sturgeon says finding the right account does take a little work, but it is a job that will pay off.

“There are a lot of options to save fees, save time and even make you money," she says.