I stumbled across something on the internet that really had me bothered: “Young debit card users pay $1 billion dollars in overdraft fees“. This is a problem that my husband and I have had for years. I thought that it was just us and it seemed like no matter how careful we were, banks would find a way to charge us that dreaded $35 fee repeatedly.
Around the holidays one year, I remember my husband and I were shopping for gifts and entertaining items for our home. We watched our account closely to make sure we weren’t going over what we had in the account. That next week (I believe it was Tuesday), our bank had charged us with that dreaded $35. It turned out they had ordered our purchases in a way that would make it go over so they could charge us the fee. When we called to ask about it, we were told, “Debit purchases can be processed in any order especially if made over the weekend”. I couldn’t help but think…what the h%$&!
So if you’re feeling like me and are determined to find a way to turn this statistic around and end banks’ scheming ways, here are some ideas:
- Find out ways you can be charged (minimum balance fees, monthly or annual maintenance fees, lost debit card fees, etc.) and research how to avoid them. Banks make it pretty hard to do that with their tiny booklets of Terms and Conditions filled with fine print but take the extra mile and thoroughly research your bank online before signing up.
- Find a bank (or credit union) that has policies that fit your financial habits. If you use checks a lot then you don’t want an account that is going to charge you extra every month if you use it more than your required amount.
- Use cash as much as possible but especially for small transactions. One thing the article mentioned is that we (young adults) tend to use our debit cards for pretty much everything which is not a good idea, especially if you want to be able to keep track of it all.
- Use a smaller bank or credit union. Big banks are usually for-profit and work with shareholders so their main concern is to keep money flowing and keep those shareholders happy. On the other hand, smaller banks and credit unions are usually not-for profits so they will do the best they can to keep you happy. Not to mention, smaller banks and credit unions have lower fees if you do mess up.
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card IF you are good about paying on time.
- Be a valuable customer. Have several accounts (including credit card or car loans) that are in good standing with the bank for years and they will be more willing to do whatever it takes to keep you.
- A no-brainer: sign up for alerts.
All in all, stay informed and think wisely. At the end of the day, you are entrusting someone with one of your most prized possessions: your money. It’s important for us to be smart because they expect us not to be as young mothers/adults and all of that money earned could be much better used for our kids…or a nice outfit! 😉