Banks are funny places …
When you’re young, you’re taught that its a safe place to take your money and save it for a rainy day.
But when you get older, you find out that a bank is just like any other business – they’re there to make money off of you! Every time you walk in to one, you’re bombarded by advertisments for new accounts, loans, and a bunch of other services that you probably would never normally use.
Even if you don’t go inside one, they want you to meet certain minimums, signup for overdraft protection, get a debit card, … and the list goes on and on!
Fortunately, the grand majority of these things are just nothing more than noise. Despite their best attempts to try to convince you otherwise, there are really on a few basic things you need when it comes to banking.
Here are 15 tips for saving money when it comes to going to the bank and managing your finances.
1. Take advantage of banking sign-up bonuses.
This is BY FAR my favorite way to save money at the bank.
Why? Because I’m actually making money by opening an account! Year after year, I’ve opened accounts and received promo bonus payments of anywhere between $100 and $300 each.
Just a reminder: Be mindful of the rules and requirements. Just like a credit card promo deal, one wrong step, and you could end up owing a lot more than the promo deal is worth.
2. Never rack up ATM fees.
There’s no reason you should ever have to pay $3 to $10 to get $20 or more out of your bank. It makes no sense!
Use some common sense by always using a designated ATM from your official bank that doesn’t charge, and take out more than enough cash to get you back.
3. Don’t rack up insufficient funds fees.
My bank charges $34 for each time you go below $0. Ouch! That could quickly add up to hundreds of dollars if you’re careful. To stay safe, keep a comfortable “buffer” level of money (such as $1,000 or more) in your account to avoid over-drafting.
4. Check into over-draft protection.
If you can’t build up that account buffer, then ask your bank about over-draft protection by linking in another account. Avoid this option if there are fees.
5. Stay above the minimum balance.
$0 isn’t the only minimum you have to make sure you’re above. Some accounts charge you a fee if you go below a certain minimum balance according to their rules (such as $2,000 or so). Again, to avoid getting unnecessary charges, know the requirements and avoid these fees at all costs.
6. Bank online.
Save both time and money by checking your balances, making deposits, and paying bills rather than physically having to go to the bank.
7. Deposit your checks electronically
In addition to online banking, did you know that you can deposit your checks through your phone too? I use this one all the time instead of driving to the bank, and its awesome!
8. Get a higher interest rate savings account.
Remember earning “interest”? Those were the days, right? Well, fortunately if you’re willing to open an account online, you’re going to find one that will pay you a lot more in interest than the traditional brick and mortar bank will. Try a trusted one like Ally.
9. Use Bankrate.
How can you find out what the going rate is for a checking account, CD, mortgage, or just about anything else? Check out Bankrate and you can learn them in the click of a button. They’ve also got a ton of useful calculators there too.
10. Never buy checks from the bank.
Banks make a killing off of charging premium rates for designer checks. You can buy them for FAR cheaper online from any one of hundreds of vendors.
11. Don’t get “cute” checks.
Puppies and artsy designs are cute. But not when they cost twice as much as the plain blue ones. Go ahead and express yourself; just not on your checks. Don’t worry – they spend just the same.
12. Skip getting duplicate checks.
Honestly, with electronic banking, why do you need a duplicate of your check anyways?
13. If it’s free, switch to automatic bill payments.
Automatic bill payments are absolutely incredible! Such a huge time saver every month. And on top of that, you’ll never miss a payment and you’ll save on the cost of checks and stamps.
14. Get your fees waived.
Usually if its your first offense or you’re a long time customer, a bank will be willing to let the fees go.
15. Skip buying mutual funds from your local bank.
Online brokers that can handle your investments have come a long, long ways. If your bank tries to set you up with mutual funds or investments, tell them to forget it. You’ll pay a whole lot more than you would with a popular online broker. I suggest Vanguard or Fidelity.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr