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Common bank fees and how to avoid them

Without care, these fees can put a serious dent in your savings.

Updated

Fact checked

If you’ve ever drawn more money from your bank or credit account than is available, you know the debilitating sting of a bank penalty fee. Sure, these are meant to be one-off penalties, but these fees can quickly add up, accrue interest and make it increasingly difficult to regain your financial footing. Here’s a definitive list of 30 bank penalty fees you could encounter and how to avoid them.

What are some common bank fees?

The range of penalty fees that could apply to your bank accounts varies depending on your financial institution. But here’s a list of 30 fees you may want to watch out for.

A
  • Account closure fee. Some banks charge a fee of around $25 if you decide to close your account within 90 to 190 days of opening it. This is to discourage people from taking advantage of new-customer bonuses.
  • ACH bank transfer fee. It’s generally free to send money electronically from bank to bank. But some institutions may charge a $3 ACH transfer fee.
  • ATM fees. Your bank will usually charge you a fee of around $2.50 each time you use your debit or ATM card at a non-network ATM.
  • ATM operator fees. Just as your bank will charge you for using non-network ATMs, the ATM’s owner may charge you a fee too. This means you could pay an additional $3 operator fee on top of the $2.50 non-network fee.
B
  • Bill pay fee. Most banks offer online bill pay services for free. But you may pay an additional fee if you need to expedite or overnight a payment. If you do, it’ll usually cost around $10.
C
  • Card replacement fee. Some banks replace your debit card for free if it’s lost or stolen. But others may charge you around $5 to $10. You could pay even more if you need your card overnighted.
  • Cash deposit fee. Business account owners have a set amount of cash they can deposit into their accounts for free each month. Once they hit this limit, they pay a fee for additional deposits usually around 30 cents for every $100.
  • Cashier’s check fee. If you’re making a large purchase and need a bank-issued cashier’s check, expect to pay around $10 to get one.
  • Check image service fee. When you cancel a lost check, the bank may send you an image of the canceled check along with your monthly statement. If you opted for paper statements, you’ll pay a fee for this image usually around $3.
E
  • Early withdrawal fee. If you need to withdraw money from your CD before it matures, expect to pay an early withdrawal penalty equal to 30 to 365 days’ interest depending on the bank and term length. The only exception is if you open a no-penalty CD.
  • Excessive withdrawal fee. You’ll typically pay $5 to $15 each time you make more than six outgoing transactions a month from a savings or money market account. But this fee could be temporarily waived, so check with your provider.
  • Extended overdraft fee. Most banks charge a fee each time you overdraw on your account. But some banks take it a step further by charging a daily penalty fee of around $5 if you don’t restore funds to your account quickly enough.
F
  • Foreign transaction fee. Depending on your bank, you may pay a foreign transaction fee when you use your debit card overseas usually anywhere from 1% to 3%.
I
  • Inactivity fee. If you let your checking, savings or money market account lie dormant for too long, you could pay an inactivity fee. Not all banks charge this fee, but those that do typically charge around $10.
  • International fees. If you travel overseas Common bank fees in the US usually cost a little bit more when you travel overseas. For example, you could pay a higher ATM fee, wire transfer fee or ACH transfer fee when you’re traveling abroad than you would if you were in the US.
  • Investigation fee. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud, you can request to have your bank investigate it. But you may pay around $25 an hour to have them do it.
L
  • Late payment fee. Some banks charge for extra services like safety deposit box rentals. If you’re late paying these fees, you could pay a charge of around $10.
  • Legal processing fees. If there is a garnishment, tax levy or court order against your bank accounts, you could end up paying a fee as high as $75 for each order regardless of whether the funds are actually paid.
M
  • Money order fee. You can buy a money order almost anywhere at the post office, retail stores, the supermarket and even your bank. Fees vary, but banks usually charge around $5.
  • Monthly maintenance fee. Many banks charge a monthly fee for keeping your account open, which can range anywhere from $5 to $25. You can often avoid this charge by fulfilling certain conditions set by your bank.
  • Minimum balance fee. Some banks expect you to keep a certain amount of money in your account at all times. If your balance dips below this limit, you could pay a fee of around $5 to $25. Most banks either charge a monthly maintenance fee or a minimum balance fee usually not both.
N
  • Nonsufficient funds fee. You’ll get this fee when you write a check or make a debit card transaction that’s not covered by sufficient funds at the time of payment. Your bank typically returns the payment instead of covering the overdraft for you. But it still costs the same as an overdraft fee usually around $35.
O
  • Overdraft fee. You’ll pay an overdraft fee when you withdraw more from your bank than is available and the bank covers the difference. These fees are usually charged on a per-transaction basis and can cost around $35 each.
  • Overdraft transfer fee. If you have your checking and savings account linked at the same bank, your institution can transfer money from your savings if you overdraw on checking. Some banks will do this for free. But others may charge a fee around $15.
P
  • Paper statement fee. While not exactly a penalty, many banks will tack in a minor charge to your account if you choose to receive your statements in paper instead of online. This fee is typically around $2.
R
  • Research fee. Similar to an investigation fee, your bank may charge a research fee if it needs to look into a potentially fraudulent transaction. It usually costs around $7 for each charge being looked in to.
  • Returned deposit fee. This bank penalty fee applies when someone else writes a check to you but their account doesn’t contain sufficient funds to cover it at the time you present it for payment. It’s usually around $13.
S
  • Stop payment fee. This happens when you write a check and then decide to cancel it. If the check is presented for payment after it has been stopped, you may be liable for another $15 to $35 fee.
T
  • Teller fee. Although not common, some banks charge you a fee for getting help from a bank teller. If you run into a bank that charges this fee, expect to pay $2 to $4 each time you assistance.
W
  • Wire transfer fee. If you want to instantly send money to someone else, you can do so using a wire transfer. The price varies depending on whether you’re sending or receiving a transfer and whether it’s domestic or international. No matter how you slice it, you can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $40.

How to avoid bank fees

Here are some ways you can guard against being hit by bank penalty fees:

  • Compare products. Compare banks to find one with the fewest fees or the lowest charges on those fees. You may have to do some digging, but some institutions offer fee-free accounts.
  • Read the fine print. Go through your bank account’s Fee Schedule and Product Disclosure Statement to learn applicable fees and if you can reduce or avoid them.
  • Contact your bank. Contact your bank to dispute charges you think are incorrect or unfair. Sometimes, all you need to do is explain your situation and ask the bank to reverse the charge.
  • Know the state of your accounts. Know how your income stacks up against your expenditure and never assume money due has entered your account without checking first. Regularly review your account details so you’re aware of what’s going out and coming in for each account. This will allow you to budget accordingly and could help you avoid penalty fees as a result.
  • Opt-out of overdraft protection. Avoid overdraft fees easily by simply not opting-in for the service. By opting out, charges that would bring your account balance below $0 are automatically declined. You can arrange this when opening your bank account.
  • Set up alerts. Turn on email or text alerts and get notified when you have a low account balance, get a direct deposit, make a withdrawal, and more.

    Compare bank accounts with no fees

    Data indicated here is updated regularly
    Name Product Fee ATM transaction fee Overdraft fee Nonsufficient funds fee Foreign transaction fee
    BBVA Online Checking
    $0
    $0
    $38
    $38
    3%
    A full-service account with convenient, surcharge-free access to two massive ATM networks, plus a $200 signup bonus when you meet deposit requirements
    Aspiration Spend & Save Account
    $0
    $0
    $0
    $0
    1%
    A spend and save combo account with no monthly service fees, free access to every ATM in the world, unlimited cash back rewards and deposits insured by the FDIC. The Aspiration Spend & Save Account is a cash management account offering of Aspiration Financial, LLC, an SEC-registered broker-dealer. Aspiration is not a chartered bank.
    BBVA Free Checking
    $0
    $0
    $32
    $38
    3%
    Pay a $0 monthly service charge and get free access to BBVA ATMs.
    Radius Bank Rewards Checking
    $0
    $0
    $25
    Earn cash back with this high-interest checking account, plus get free ATM access worldwide.
    Chime Spending account
    $0
    $0
    $0
    0%
    Linked checking and savings accounts from a mobile-first bank that’s light on fees.
    Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking
    $0
    $0
    $30
    $30
    Earn a super high 3.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 if you receive eDocuments, make 12+ debit card purchases totaling $100+ and direct deposit $500+ each month. Earn 4.09% APY if you also spend $500+ on CCU's credit card, or 5.09% if you also spend $1,000+ on the credit card monthly.
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    Compare up to 4 providers

    $
    $
    months
    Name Product Interest rates (APY) Fee Minimum deposit to open Interest earned More info
    CIT Bank Savings Builder High Yield Savings Account

    0.95% on $25,000+ or set up a direct deposit of $100+ each month
    0.79% on $0 to $24,999
    $0
    $100
    Go to site
    View details
    No account opening or maintenance fees. Daily compounding interest. Earn one of the nation's top rates
    American Express® Personal Savings High Yield Savings
    1.00%
    $0
    $0
    Go to site
    View details
    Enjoy no monthly fees and a competitive APY with this online-only savings account. Accounts offered by American Express National Bank, Member FDIC.
    UFB Direct High Yield Savings
    0.40%
    $0
    $100
    Go to site
    View details
    Earn an APY when your balance is higher than $10,000 with this no-monthly-fee savings account.
    Betterment Everyday Cash Reserve
    0.40%
    $0
    $10
    Go to site
    View details
    This savings account has no account and overdraft fees, plus it requires no minimum balance.
    Synchrony High Yield Savings
    1.05%
    $0
    $0
    Go to site
    View details
    Earn one of the highest interest rates without the fees.
    Radius Bank High-Yield Savings

    0.25% on $25,000+
    0.15% on $2,500 to $24,999.99
    0.05% on $10 to $2,499.99
    $0
    $100
    Go to site
    View details
    A free high-interest savings account with a $100 minimum deposit to open
    loading

    Compare up to 4 providers

    Common bank fees you can expect at top banks

    Check out the table below to compare common fees at eight banks.

    BankMonthly maintenance feeNon-network ATM feeOverdraft feeWire transfer fee
    Bank of America$0 to $25$2.50$35$0 to $40
    Chase$4.95 to $25$2.50$34$15 to $50
    Optum BankVaries by employer$2.50N/A$0
    TD Bank$5.99 to $25$3$35$15 to $50
    U.S. Bank$0 to $24.95$2.50$36$20 to $50
    Ally Bank$0$0$25$0 to $20
    Citizens Bank$0 to $25$3$35$10 to $40
    PNC Bank$0 to $25$3$36$0 to $45

    Bottom line

    Bank penalty fees can be a nasty surprise if you’re not aware of them. But understanding what these fees are, and when they may apply to your specific accounts, will help you avoid and reduce these costs. If you want to avoid common fees altogether, compare fee-free checking accounts to see if there’s one that suits your needs.

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