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3 On Your Side: Avoiding Bank Fees

jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – First, it was Bank of America that caused an uproar with the announcement of a new debit card fee. Then Citibank said it would soon charge its customers more for some checking accounts. So what can consumers do to avoid some of these new bank fees?

Paying more money, to use your money. New fees from some big banking names have some consumers fired up. The good news is that there are other options and strategies to keep more money in your wallet.

But, “It’s going to take a little research to avoid these fees. It’s not just going to be a given,” says Claes Bell of Bankrate.com

The average minimum balance for free checking is getting higher, according to Bankrate.com. One way to clear those higher hurdles is to keep your checking and savings accounts in the same place.

Debit card fees are another concern for consumers. Americans started to wean themselves off credit cards in the wake of the recent financial crisis, but consider one with a small credit limit for your everyday expenses. Just be sure to pay off the balance each month.

If ATM fees aggravate you, let your smartphone search for the nearest branch of your own bank.

“Smartphones offer a lot of great tools to help avoid ATM fees, because lot of banks’ apps have an ATM locator function, or you can just kind of Google your bank and find a branch nearby,” Bell says.

There are plenty of financial institutions that don’t charge a monthly fee for a checking account or debit card use. Now may be the time to consider a community bank, a credit union or an online bank. But be sure to first take your own spending habits and needs into account. For instance, smaller banks often don’t have as many ATM locations, and the fee to use “outside” ATM machines where you work or shop could cost you as much as your current bank’s new debit card fees. Basically, be sure to think it through before you do anything.

For more info on BankRate.com, click here.

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS3