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Don't Let an Unexpected Bank Fee Be the Reason You Get Into Debt


Bankruptcy and personal money management are tightly intertwined. As you read through the blog you will probably notice that a lot of our posts will offer advice and tips on saving, how to avoid scams and general philosophies about preserving financial stability.

Here is another post about how to hang on to more of your money, which is especially useful for anyone coming out of bankruptcy or performing some initial research. These tips involve banks, which many people believe want to help you with saving money. However, that is not always the case. In fact, it's becoming quite the opposite.

Banks (and credit card companies) are in attack mode. Surprise fees and quick interest jumps are now an everyday occurrence and customer service operators are busy as ever routing the complaints. Here are a number of examples:

  • Checking accounts: This is basically a fee to use your own money. Many banks will give it to you for free if you have other accounts or a loan. Once that loan is paid off (isn't that the idea?) they will add a fee for your checking. Most likely without notice. Some will charge you now if you don't carry a specific balance or use enough checks each month. Don't assume your checking account is free.
  • ATM fees are very unreasonable, across the board, if you don't use your own bank's ATM. Some surcharges are reaching toward $4.00/transaction. The only way to make this affordable is to take out more money, thus lowering your cost of getting the money. Still, you probably only need $20, not $400. Use your own bank but if there is still a fee, go inside to a teller.
  • But wait ... many banks now charge to use tellers! Complaints are piling up about the reinstatement of teller fees. As hard as it is to believe, it was once quite common but drew significant flack from national consumer advocates. Looks like we'll need their help again.
  • Overdraft charges are also becoming steep. While many banks began to offer accounts with no overdraft fee as an incentive, watch for it to kick-in unexpectedly. Also, it does not help that a bank allows you to take more than you have from an ATM and then has the nerve to hit you with an overdraft penalty.
  • If you deposit a check that bounces, you get slapped with the penalty. Ouch. How were you supposed to know?
  • You get charged for the ATM, charged for speaking with someone, so how about the phone? Nope. Fees are popping up for calling the bank, too.
  • Visiting a brother in Canada? Well, you should now expect to pay to get currency converted. Expect to get lopped off at the knees on the front end, when exchanging the money and at the end when converting back to dollars whatever foreign currency you have left over.

As most of us try to avoid using credit cards and the fees they are implementing before new laws kick-in to prevent that very thing, it seems that even working in cash will cost us. Basically, it's become a tough world in which to try to stay debt-free. For those teetering on the brink of a major financial setback, don't let a surprise fee push you into the abyss.

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