Money & Career

The secrets to saving on bank fees

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

The secrets to saving on bank fees

Any idea what you paid last month in bank service charges? It may be a lot more than you think. According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian household spends more per year on bank fees ($185) than they do on going to the movies ($171).

I'd much rather go to a show than fork out more dough to the banks, so I took a closer look at what I was paying in bank fees and was shocked at what I found. I pay $12.95 a month for 50 transactions on our family's chequing account. I'm ashamed to say I didn't realize that I also pay 65 cents for every transaction over that limit. Because both my husband and I use our debit cards a lot, we were racking up about $30 a month in fees – that's $360 a year for the privilege of accessing our own money. I called my bank and switched to a $9.99 a month plan with unlimited transactions and now pay $120 a year in fees instead of $360. That one simple move saved $240 in bank fees.

"Lots of people don't realize they don't have unlimited transactions," says Vancouver money coach Sheila Walkington. "Often they don't look at their bank statements properly or they are a little intimidated to ask about the fees." Higher fees are often are related to having the wrong kind of banking package. The easiest way to find the package that's best for you is to Google the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's interactive Cost of Banking guide and use this tool to tell you what type of chequing and savings accounts best suit your banking profile.

Here are some additional tips for saving on bank fees:

Never use a bank machine other than your own
Every time you use another bank's ATM machine, you are charged a network access fee by your own bank of $1.50 plus a $1.50 fee by the bank that operates the machine. Those ubiquitous private cash machines at convenience stores charge even more.

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Make fewer withdrawals
Instead of withdrawing $60 three times a week, take out $180 once a week and you'll rack up fewer transactions.

Pay your bills online or via telephone banking
Sometimes these services are free or the fee is much less than using tellers or ABMs.

Maintain a minimum monthly balance
Most accounts will waive all bank fees if you maintain a minimum monthly balance – usually this is $1,000 or $2,000.

Take advantage of "cash back" when you are out shopping
If you are paying with a debit card, many stores allow you to ask the cashier to add in extra money, so you can avoid paying an ATM fee.

Use no-fee banking institutions
ING Direct and President's Choice Financial have no service fees whatsoever. They also have no branches or tellers – all banking is done by internet, phone or ABM.

Consider a low-cost account
These accounts charge less than $4 a month and most – but not all – of the big banks have them. They make sense if you are able to limit your transactions to eight to 10 per month by avoiding the tellers and bank machines and doing online and telephone banking.

Skip the insurance
If you have sufficient private life insurance coverage it's not necessary to have insurance on any of your accounts. "A lot of people may be paying for insurance on their line of credit, for example, and may not realize they signed up for that," says Walkington.

Think you need a financial advisor? Here's how to find one that's right for you.

You can find more great money-saving advice here.

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The secrets to saving on bank fees

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