Bank fees: expect none

Banks have been in the news lately following last month’s changes to tax legislation. From bonus payments and pay raises for employees, to increasing bank fees, we see a mixed bag of changes that impact each of us differently. A lot of banking features can’t be changed, but here are a few things that you should expect from banking and tips on how to get them.

The simplest should be a free checking account which almost always comes with direct deposits by your employer. This isn’t exactly free because your employer is paying for the service, but you get the benefit of a free bank account. Some banks also offer free student checking, hoping to lock in loyal long term customers.

ATM fees can also be avoided by using an ATM-free bank. Forget Credit Unions and large banks that advertise large networks with millions of ATMs, especially when traveling overseas where none or few of the foreign banks will be in network. ATMs are expensive to make, manage, and protect. Add in more recent risks such as skimmers, and ATMs become very expensive, but people still need to withdraw money. An ATM-free bank is one that does not operate any ATMs. They tend to also have fewer physical branches and offer brokerage services. By completely saving on the cost of operating ATMs, they can pass on the savings to you in the form of fee credits. If you’re able to switch, I recommend that you go from “ATM fee to ATM-free”. At the very least, I recommend setting up a separate account prior to any overseas trips. I saved hundreds in fees while traveling.

Free monthly Credit Scores are now offered by many banks. Some scores are included on monthly statements while others can be found via mobile app. Gone are the days of requesting an annual credit report from each credit bureau only to get a long credit history without a calculated FICO score. Though not all banks provide a FICO score, the other types of scores are good enough.

Banks and FinTech companies continue to come out with more and more features and services to improve our lives. I’ll cover more of these in future posts to help you set proper expectations of your banks.

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