Checking Account Fees (2022) How To Avoid Them

Article Summary:

Checking account fees can come in various forms, such as monthly maintenance fees, overdrafts, and wiring fees, among others. The costliest fees, however, will be the result of overdrawing your account or insufficient funds. Careful budgeting and account oversight can help you eliminate most, if not all, of these fees from your banking life.

The traditional way for banks to turn a profit is to take deposits from customers and loan that money out to other people at an interest rate that the bank determines to be fair and profitable. The bank pays the depositor interest on their money and then collects some form of principal and interest over time from the debtor to which they lent money.

This is the traditional structure of a bank’s role in modern finance, but many of us know this isn’t the only way that banks make money. Banks have a variety of avenues to make money, and charging fees on checking accounts is one of the most common ways.

In addition to minimum balance and overdraft fees, there are various other fees that financial institutions can (and will) charge. This includes fees for using an out-of-network ATM, international debit card transactions, international wires, and various others. However, not every institution charges these fees. Here are some of the main checking account fees that you should be acutely aware of.

Overdraft and nonsufficient funds (NSF)

Spending money that you don’t have, but claim to, can get you in trouble if it’s a complex, thought-out scheme. Most of the time, however, we incur this fee when we use our debit cards and forget how much we have in our checking accounts or assume a transfer came through but is still pending. In this case, the bank will allow the transaction to go through but then charge a fee on top for covering the charge with money that is not in your checking account.

In November 2022, the average overdraft fee in the United States was $29.80, which is significantly less than the year before. However, this decrease follows a preceding trend of increases every year, as you can see from the graph below.

Typical overdraft fees: $0 to $50

How to avoid them: Make sure that you know exactly what is going in and out of your account by checking your statement regularly. Financial institutions such as the Bank of America will have easy online access to check your accounts and pending payments. Don’t spend money that is not 100% there in your account to avoid these fees.

Monthly maintenance fees

Most banks will charge you a monthly service fee for “maintaining” the account. In most cases, this means you need to make recurring deposits or keep a healthy average balance in your account to avoid this monthly maintenance fee.

For example, an institution might ask you to maintain a minimum balance of $2,500 in your checking account at all times. If the balance is below $2,500, you will be charged a fee that will show up on your subsequent statements. Over time this can really eat into your account if you don’t pay attention.

How fees add up

Let’s say two people have checking accounts at the same financial institution, and each account has a $2,500 minimum balance requirement. Account Owner A starts with $3,000 in her account, while Account Owner B starts with only $2,000.

The bank charges Owner B $15 per month for not meeting the minimum deposit requirement. As you can see, after having the account for three years, Owner B has a substantially smaller balance due to avoidable fees.

PrincipalAPYTotal after interest earned (5 years)Annual bank feesBalance
$3,0001.50%$3,231.85$0.00$3,231.85
$2,0001.50%$2,154.00$900.00$1,254.00

That $15 fee, which is on the high end, eats away significantly at the customer’s principal amount that they had in their checking account. It’s imperative that you check the terms and conditions of any account that you have to make absolutely sure you aren’t being charged for something that you could avoid.

Typical monthly fee: $0 to $20

How to avoid them: Understand the minimum deposit amount or direct deposit rules for your minimum maintenance requirements. Make sure you get paid through direct deposit regularly to meet your minimum balance requirement.

Pro Tip

Some financial institutions will waive fees associated with not maintaining a minimum balance if you have direct deposit set up. If the direct deposit comes at the same time every month in your monthly statement, you can possibly fight this.

Various other fees

Monthly maintenance and overdraft fees are very common and will be found in the fine print for most checking accounts, regardless of what financial institution you bank with. There are, however, other fees that institutions may charge depending on who you bank with and what type of client you are. Here are some of the most common.

In-network ATM fees

Unless you’re using an ATM that is owned by your bank, chances are you’ll incur a “transaction fee” from the ATM you’re using. It’s important to know that the individual or company who owns the ATM charges you this fee, not your financial institution.

Typical in-network ATM fee: $0 to $4

How to avoid them: Go to an ATM that is owned by your bank or withdraw your funds from a local branch.

Out-of-network ATM fee

Banks will have their own ATMs and ATMs that are under their “network.” The bank doesn’t necessarily own a network ATM but rather is a third-party ATM service provider that your bank subscribes to. If you use a card for an out-of-network ATM, you could be looking at a fee every time you withdraw money.

Typical OON ATM fee: $0 to $5

How to avoid them: Go to an ATM that is either owned by your bank or in its network.

International transaction

Some institutions will charge an extra fee if you use your debit card linked to your checking account outside of the country. Whenever you make a transaction in a different country, expect to incur an additional charge of 1% to 3% of the purchase price.

Typical international transaction fee: 0% to 3%

How to avoid them: Either don’t go overseas or make sure that you select a bank with little no international transaction fees if you are going to be spending significant time abroad.

Wiring money

Although there are various mobile applications (like Zelle and Venmo) that allow us to transfer smaller amounts between people with ease, wiring is still the preferred route for larger transfers.

Wiring is giving your bank instructions to send money from your checking account to another bank account either domestically or overseas. For overseas wires, the banks will commonly charge more than they would a domestic wire.

Typical domestic wire fee: $0 to $30

Typical international wire fee: $0 to $60

How to avoid them: This is difficult to do unless you can find an institution that will waive these fees.

Stop payment fee

If you made a mistake on a check or even a debit card transaction, you could cancel the transaction if you alert them in time. This is known as a “stop payment fee.”

For stopping or correcting the mistake you made, your financial institution will charge a fee to stop the payment on your behalf. Although the fees won’t break the bank, they can be costly if compounded and happen frequently.

Typical stop payment fee: $0 to $35

How to avoid them: Make sure you double-check all of your check writing or product purchases before you finalize the transactions.

Paper statement

To help combat climate change, as well as make some money, some banks will charge you money for producing a monthly paper statement. While this might seem like a pain to some, making your bank statements digital can help you keep all of your bills in one place. And the fees institutions charge may encourage some reluctant customers.

Typical paper statement fee: $0.50 to $3.00

How to avoid them: You don’t really need a paper statement these days, so just don’t get one!

Checking accounts and their fees

To make your life easier, we’ve compiled detailed snapshots of some of the largest banks with significant operations in the U.S. Here is a birds-eye view of some of the fees you may incur through these checking accounts.

AccountU.S. Bank Smartly CheckingHSBC Premier CheckingChase Bank TotalUpgrade Rewards Checkingnbkc Bank Everything Account
Minimum balance requirement$1,500$75,000Starting at $1,500$0Starting at $0
Monthly fee$0 – $6.95$0 – $50$0 – $12$0Starting at $0
ATM out-of-network fees$2.50Starting at $0Starting at $3Starting at $0Starting at $0
Overdraft item fee$36$0$34$0$0
Overdraft protection fee$12.50$0$34$0$0
Return deposit fee (domestic)$19$0$12$0$0
Stop payment fee$35$0$30$0$0
Wire transfer feesDomestic, incoming$20$0$15$0$0
Domestic, outgoing$30$0$35$0$5
International, incoming$25$0$15$0$45
International, outgoing$50$0$40$0$45
Foreign transaction feeUp to 3%0%3%0%0%
Paper statement fee$2$0$0N/A$0

To find a checking account with minimal fees, take a look at some of the accounts below. Using this tool, you can compare checking accounts without minimum balance requirements or monthly maintenance fees. All of the accounts below, for example, don’t charge out-of-network ATM fees.

FAQs

What are the fees for a checking account?

Fees for a checking account can vary per account, but in most cases, they consist of monthly balance/deposit limits and overdraft or nonsufficient fund fees. There are then other average checking account fees such as a stop payment or international wire.

Do all checking accounts have monthly fees?

No, there are several online institutions, for instance, that offer checking accounts with no monthly fees or deposit requirements.

How do I avoid fees on my checking account?

The best way to avoid fees is to plan carefully and know the ins and outs of your account activity. Never spend what you don’t have, know your money, and go to ATMs in your institution’s network to avoid ATM fees.

Why do I have a monthly fee on my checking account?

If you maintain the correct balance or deposit requirements, in most cases, you don’t have to pay monthly fees. However, the banks need to make money somehow. So if you don’t maintain a large enough balance in your bank accounts or your deposit amount and recurrence isn’t up to snuff, you could be hit with fees.

Which bank has no monthly fee?

You may find that online-only financial institutions have fewer fees (in addition to no monthly fees) because the overhead costs for these institutions are minimal. This includes Chime Bank, Upgrade, and nbkc bank.

What is the minimum balance for a checking account?

This all depends on the bank. Some banks, such as Upgrade, have no minimum balance needed for a checking account. Most of the traditional banks, however, will have some sort of minimum balance or deposit requirement.

Key Takeaways

  • Checking account fees at a bank or credit union is common, but each institution will charge different fees. Depending on the institution, its terms, and the customer’s spending habits, most of these fees can be avoided.
  • Many institutions have monthly maintenance fees. Fortunately, you can avoid monthly service fees by keeping track of your finances, spending habits, and monitoring your bank statement.
  • Other fees associated with checking accounts involve wiring, international transactions, and stop payment.
  • There are various offline and online banking options with checking accounts that will suit your needs.
View Article Sources
  1. Overdraft and Account Fees — Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  2. I opened a “free” checking account but there are fees charged on my account. Can my bank/credit union do that? — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  3. Bank Accounts: Fees & Terms — HelpWithMyBank.gov
  4. Mobile Check Deposit Limits for the Top U.S. Banks (2022 Update) — SuperMoney
  5. All You Need to Know about Mobile Wallets: What the Future of Payments Looks Like — SuperMoney
  6. How to Open a Checking Account — SuperMoney
  7. What is Direct Deposit? How To Deposit Your Paycheck Safely — SuperMoney
  8. What Are The Benefits Of A Checking Account? — SuperMoney
  9. Best Checking Accounts With No Overdraft Fees — SuperMoney
  10. Best Checking Accounts — SuperMoney
  11. UBS Bank USA Checking Account — SuperMoney
  12. Chase Bank Total — SuperMoney
  13. U.S. Bank Smartly™ Checking — SuperMoney
  14. Upgrade – Rewards Checking — SuperMoney