Money 101: Tips and Tricks for Avoiding New Bank Fees

VIDEO: Elisabeth Leamy reports on new bank fees and how to sidestep them.
ABCNEWS.com

Many banks are inventing brand new fees to stick you with -- and raising the ones they dreamt up years ago. Fortunately, there are workarounds to avoid these gotchas.

When Congress and the Federal Reserve passed new laws and rules that rob banks of some of their favorite fees, the industry came up with some new ones.

Americans now use debit cards more than credit cards. And next year, they could even surpass cash. And that, experts say, is why banks are now looking to cash in on your debit cards.

Consumers aren't happy.

"It is pretty irritating," Amanda Harris said.

"It's hard enough, it's our money," another accountholder said.

Gotcha No. 1: No more free debit cards.

Bank of America is about to start charging a $5 per month debit card fee. Use your card just once, to buy something like a $1 bottle of water, and you'll owe it. A Bank of America spokesperson says "the economics of offering a debit card have changed with recent regulations."

Wells Fargo and Chase have experimented with similar fees.

Bob Sullivan is the author of the book"Gotcha Capitalism."

"Quite literally money will now cost you more money," he told "Good Morning America."

The workaround? Use a credit card instead of a debit card, as long as you pay it off each month.

Gotcha No. 2: No more free checking.

Two years ago, three-quarters of banks offered it. Now, fewer than half of banks do, according to bankrate.com.

The workaround: Nearly all banks will give you free checking if you sign up for additional services, such as direct deposit.

Gotcha No. 3: Mandatory minimum balances.

Several big banks now charge between $5 and $15 if your checking balance slips below $1,500.

"All sorts of banks are trying all manner of new fees," Sullivan said. "Really it feels like they've turned into the airline industry trying to nickel and dime you at every turn."

The workaround: Keep all your accounts at a single bank, so both checking and savings count towards your minimum.

Gotcha No.4: Ever-higher ATM fees.

You'll now pay a total of $3.81, on average, for using an out-of-network cash machine.

The workaround: Consider an online bank because many of them reimburse you for ATM fees.

Final Gotcha: Soaring bounced check fees.

They now average nearly $31.

The workaround: Finance experts say consider joining a non-profit credit union that doesn't use fees to boost its bottom line.

Credit unions are a tremendous resource and these days there's always some way to join, even if you don't work for a company that offered one. Click HERE for a site that matches people with credit unions.

Web-Extra Tips

If you have an account requiring a minimum number of deposits or balance amount, pay close attention to your statements. Use account alerts to notify you when your balance drops close to the level that gets you hit with a fee.

Check the fine print. Many banks advertise free checking, but have stipulations that must be met to waive monthly fees.

Keep up with monthly debit card transactions. Some banks are adding fees if you don't use your debit card enough.

Find out what activities will waive your monthly maintenance fee. Banks may waive the fee for online banking, a certain number of deposits or more debit card usage.

If you didn't opt out of overdraft protection, contact your bank and opt out now. While banks still promote its benefits, this protection can be costly should you overdraw your account.

Web extra tips courtesy of Lowcards.com

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