Banks are kind of a necessary evil. They may keep your money safe, but they also take it from you by charging ridiculous banking fees that they never properly explain. And let’s be honest, no-one ever reads those extra tiny small print paragraphs at the end of the contract when they sign on for an account. That exact moment, however, is when you end up signing away precious money that you worked hard for to interest, account charges and processing fees that you didn’t know existed in the first place. Don’t be intimidated by bankers though, we have your back!
It’s all about the fine print!
First and foremost, the boring bit. That stack of papers they make you page through and sign? READ IT! We know it’s tempting to just skip through, especially if the bank is busy or hot, but you need to persist. By reading the contract you will be able to find out exactly what you are being charged for the next time your cash decreases. Don’t let them rush you, and take your time going through every detail. This way if there’s any hidden charges, you might catch them before you sign onto anything. Make sure to keep a lookout for whether the account allows you only a limited amount of transactions, or if there is a minimum amount necessary to keep the account open. These types of things are important to know, so that you won’t be surprised when money is subtracted from your account without notice.
Stay in the zone
Next, try and always keep to your own bank’s ATM machine. We know it’s a lot more work and effort to look for your own bank’s ATM when you’re in a mall or on the road, but you would be surprised at how much you would save on ATM charges. Many banks charge high out-of-network amounts to make back revenue and to basically “tax” you for drawing a deposit from their competitors. Try and map out your local in-network ATM’s and see if any are on your common routes.
Find the best fit
You know when you buy shoes, you almost never buy the first pair you try on? The same should go for banks. You don’t just open an account with the first bank you walk into because it might not suit your needs. Always make a point of getting quotes from several different banks, and then compare the two with the best rates. You could even try approaching one and see if they would offer you a better deal if you show them their competitor’s rates. You’ll never know until you try!
Keep an eye out
With the updates in banking technology, the next step might be the easiest of all: keep your bank balance stable. You don’t even need to head to an ATM anymore, you can simply check out your balance online or through a cell phone banking app to keep track of what’s what. This will enable you to make sure that you didn’t overspend and withdraw too much, or if anything has been deducted from your account without your knowledge so that you can query it.
Do not check this box!
Lastly, even though these aren’t as common anymore, be very wary of writing or cashing checks. Not only will certain banks charge you to cash them (yes, you read that right!), but if the check bounces due to any reason the bank can charge you extra fees in order to process them. This can become pretty pricey, especially if you cash checks often. When you give a check to someone else, make sure exactly which fees you will be liable for, or make a transfer directly from account to account if you can. Banks charge more money for cashing checks because they are actually trying to phase them out of the system. So think twice before you write one out.
That should be enough to guide you through your next account. Try to keep up with any policy changes from year to year to year, and call in often to make sure that no rule changes have affected your personal account or your charges. And last of all, the small print is always a good read!