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Don’t Buy This: There's No Reason to Pay Maintenance Fees on Your Bank Account

You shouldn't have to pay your bank for the privilege of storing your money for you. Here’s how to avoid these fees entirely.

by Funto Omojola
Jan 9 2019, 12:00pm

Photos by Getty Images

It’s no secret that banks have too many ways to make your money disappear, from $35 overdraft fees to out-of-network ATM fees. But imagine my shock when I finally realized, after three billing cycles last summer, that I was being charged a $12 monthly fee on my Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking checking account—an account I have had since I started college five years ago in 2014, without ever being charged this “service fee” before.

It may not seem like much in the short-run, but a $12 a month fee can make a big difference, especially since most checking accounts pay little to no interest. Maintenance fees alone cost Americans at least $3.5 billion in 2017. They kick in for all sorts of reasons, including if your balance falls below a certain level, you don’t have direct deposit, don’t use your debit card enough, or aren’t a student. For example, the monthly fee for a Chase Bank Total Checking Account is $12, and you can only avoid it if you have a minimum balance of $1,500 at all times, an average balance of at least $5,000, or a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more.

Getty Images trash can with money.
Paying a monthly maintenance fee on your checking account is basically throwing money away. Photo by Getty Images

If you’re a freelancer with an uneven income or just don’t like keeping a bunch of money in a low-interest account, there’s a good chance you won’t meet those minimums. “Personally I don't even keep up to $1,500 in my account through the entire month,” says Erin Lowry, a personal finance expert and author of Broke Millennial Takes on Investing. “For the average nine to five worker it might not be a problem, but there are plenty of people who are freelancers or self employed who can’t guarantee that they can always maintain a minimum amount or have direct deposits.”

Despite how easy it is to get charged for these fees, most people aren’t aware that they are losing money every month this way. “Banks know that once you sign up to do business with them, the probability of you switching banks is very low,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of the consulting firm Millennial Branding.

But that is exactly what you should do. “By switching banks you're automatically putting money back into your budget,” says Lowry. “That's a really easy way to free up $12 you could easily be putting into savings.”

Here are 10 banks that never charge monthly maintenance fees and 10 that do:

10 banks that never charge monthly maintenance fees

Many credit unions also don’t charge maintenance fees, but here are some traditional banks that don’t either:

Ally Bank
Axis Bank
Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Account
Capital One Bank 360 Checking
Charles Schwab Bank
Chime Spending Account
First Internet Bank Free Checking
FNBO Direct
Independent Bank
Simple

10 banks that charge monthly maintenance fees

While there are often ways around these fees without having to switch to another bank, here’s how much you’ll have to shell out each month if you don’t meet those requirements:

Bank of America: $5 to $25
BB&T Bright Banking: $5 to $30
Chase: $6 to $25
Citibank: $10 to $30
HSBC USA Bank: $3 to $50
PNC Bank: $7 to $25
SunTrust Bank: $7 to $100
TD Bank: $6 to $25
US Bank: $5 to $25
Wells Fargo: $10 to $30

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