Gerri Willis

June 21, 2007 

CNN Money 


( — Bank fees are on the rise and bounced check and ATM fees are
setting records. Plus, we're paying more service charges for checking accounts.
We'll tell you how to avoid these unnecessary fees.


1: Join a credit union


Credit unions have lower fees and higher saving rates on
its products, according to Tom Feltner of the Woodstock Institute, a low-income
advocacy organization. Plus, if you're looking for a credit card, the terms and
conditions are generally easier to understand than those on cards from large
commercials banks.


You can set up a credit union membership through your
employer, a neighborhood association or a church group, or join one that serves
your local community. To find out where the credit unions are in your area, go
to the National Credit Union Association web site.


2: Bypass ATM fees


If you use ATM machines, you're no stranger to the fees
attached – and the average ATM fee is rising. To avoid these fees, simply use
your debit card to make a purchase and ask for cash back.


If you really just need an ATM, make sure you avoid the
ones at airports, casinos or any other place where the machine is the only way
you can access money. You'll pay $3 or more dollars over the regular ATM


3: Link your accounts


Link your checking and your savings account so that in
case you bounce a check, the funds will be transferred from your savings
account to cover the shortfall. There is usually a $5 to $10 fee associated
with this. You can also link your checking account to a line of credit or a
credit card.

Cards that pay big-time rewards


This option is much less costly than bouncing a check,
which will cost you at least $27, or using the banks courtesy overdraft
protection where fees could run as high as $35, not including daily fees.


4: Plead your case


If you've found that you have been hit with an extra
banking fee, you may be able to use a "get out of jail free" card. If
you're generally a good customer and you've been with the bank for a while,
banks may be more willing to waive the charge.


And while you can call customer service, your best bet to
garnering some sympathy for your case is to go directly to the bank branch.