Five Bank Fees To Avoid at All Costs!

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We’ve all had our jaw drop at one time or another regarding a fee imposed for a seemingly routine service at a bank we’ve been doing business with for years.  When my bank charged me $20 to print a copy of a check I’d written to a landlord proving that I paid a security deposit, I felt betrayed.  My “bad” for not filing away a copy, but twenty bucks?

Type “worst bank fees” into a search engine and you’ll get a shameful litany of toe-curling stories about banks that slap “fines” on their customers with little-to-no mercy. This article is about those fees and not the banks (that’s an article for another day).

Here are five bank fees we find particularly hard to swallow; some would say egregious.  Feel free to nominate your own in the comments following this article.

(1) Live Person Fee

Can you believe banks still do this?  I mean charging you two bucks to speak with a live human being sounds prehistoric but it’s true.  Republic Bank has a $2 “account inquiry fee” to speak with a bank representative in person.

Similarly, many banks charge a $2 fee if you check your balance from an ATM unaffiliated with your bank.  When the ATM screen asks, “Would you like to check your balance?,” you might think this is a courteous question, shrug and say, “Sure.”  Two annoying dollars later, you’re making a phone call to your bank to try to get the charge reversed.

(2) Coin Counting Fee

At many institutions, you can have your coins counted free of charge if you are a bank customer.  If you’re not a customer, you could have to hand over up to 20% of those pennies to the teller.  Citibank reportedly charges 4% to customers and non-customers alike. This beats the CoinStar machines you find in the grocery store as they charge a super-annoying 9.8%.

The first challenge is finding a bank to count your change. Since the proliferation of CoinStar (which has a poor track record for counting correctly, FYI), many banks have scrubbed change-counting from their repertoire.

Chevy Chase Bank, in the DC area, offers the use of free change counting machines for customers, but word has it that they will let non-customers use them, too.  LaSalle Bank, we’re told, counts for free and TD Banks let anyone walk in and use their state-of-the-art animated coin counter free of charge.  If you’re unlucky and can’t find a bank near you that will count coins for free, you’re always welcome to ask the bank for coin wrappers, which they will provide free of charge.

(3) ATM Fees

This is perhaps the most ubiquitous bank fee pet peeve out there, and it’s been around as long as lay-offs. The whole idea that there is a fee for using a machine in lieu of a person is, to many, criminal.

It’s particularly easy to resent this fee when it’s raining, you’re late for the airport, and there’s no ATM affiliated with your bank in sight.  Depending on your bank, you could not only receive one but TWO fees for using a non-affiliated ATM.  The first one charged right away by the ATM’s bank, the second charged by your bank.  Yikes!

(4) Flat Overdraft Fees

Overdraft fees are annoying enough but ones that charge you the same fee no matter how much you overdraw, $3 or $3,000, are infuriating.  Typically, overdraft fees range from $25-$35 and the FDIC reports that “13% of consumers accounts pay 93% of all overdraft fees.” These folks have trouble making their numbers work every month; a problem certainly made worse by recurrent overdraft fees.

What’s even more terrible is the behind-the-scenes story that leads to overdraft fees.  Check clearing occurs on a one time per day basis and banks have their systems set up to pay the largest items first, leaving the smallest items unpaid (or paid by overdraft) after the available balances of the account have been exhausted.  Since smaller check amounts are more common, the bank gets to charge overdraft fees on more items, thus generating more revenues.

One bank, Probity Bank, in Austin, TX, offers a solution for the 93% mentioned above: an all-inclusive checking account, complete with $500.00 in overdraft protection, for $19.95 a month.  It sounds ridiculous to pay an additional $20 a month, but if you’re a habitual over-drafter, it could save you hundreds.

(5) Check Re-printing Fees

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine shares a story that sums up just how stupid Check re-printing fees can be and how they can be difficult to overturn.

“When Ilana Matfis moved from Sharon, Mass., to San Francisco, she figured that ordering new checks from Bank of America would be a snap. But when the new set arrived, ‘they’d spelled San Francisco wrong,’ recalls Matfis, 25.  After misspelling Matfis’ name on the second order of checks, the bank finally got it right — then sent her a tab for all three sets.

‘The charges were only about $10 each time, but I had to dispute them on principle,’ Matfis says. A customer-service representative in San Francisco declined to issue a refund. So Matfis called her branch back in Sharon, where an employee remembered ordering the first batch of checks and agreed to remove all the charges.”

When you’re annoyed by a fee, and feel it is unjust, call your bank during weekday business hours, when managers are likely in the bank.  Speak to them directly.  Hopefully, you read our post on complaining effectively and are now ready to take on bank fee injustices head on.  Best of luck to you.  :)

Published or Updated: December 8, 2011

Comments

  1. Kate says:

    I can’t tell you how many times when I was in my 20′s the overdraft charge fees kicked me in the wallet. Thankfully I am in a much better financial situation and have a fail safe savings attached to my checking account now and have avoiding this issue for many years.

    Thanks for the heads up on the other charges from banks. I think the live person fee is ridiculous and I always try to avoid using other bank’s ATM, so thankful for getting cash back at the grocery store!

  2. Edwin | Finantage says:

    I haven’t even heard of these live person fees or the check re-print fee. Overdraft and the like are fairly well known because of how outrageous and common they are but it seems banks will put a fee on just about anything.

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