Everyday Banking and Saving on Fees
by the_sweety 10/8/10
Everything revolves around banks, from having and receiving cash, to completing purchases
and having house or other loans, with a list extending much longer. Nearly everyone
has a bank account and it's impossible to go without it. Even those that don't like
banks and would rather complete their financial transactions through other financial
institutions that are not banks are still tied to the banking world - simply because
those financial institutions are dealing with the banks in the background. It's impossible
to go without them and they can't function without their customers. And while most
have nothing against the big names, majorities do not like paying too much for banking
services. Paying a "reasonable" amount is ok, but being charged fees that is deemed
"pricey" is a comfortable ground for a disagreement with a bank staff member - either
face-to-face or over the phone. Whether it's easy to admit this or not, those "hidden"
fees are defined in the small print, in terms and conditions, but when they point
it out, it only makes customers angrier.
Frustrations are on the rise, thoughts of changing the banks are on people's mind
and the customer service level of the financial service provider goes down. But rather
than being reactive when those unexpected charges appear on your statement and making
that angry toll-free call; saying everything on your mind to the person that is just
an employee and isn't personally responsible (in most situations) for charging the
fees, there are ways to avoid them and prevent the extra costs.
- Revisit the account and see if it still suits your needs. What worked when you weren't
making that many transactions years ago may not be that suitable now.
- Ask your banker for a financial assessment and recommendations of different accounts
that offer more free transactions (depending on the bank), higher bank balance at
all times to reduce the fees, offset accounts etc.
- Streamline your accounts and close down any unnecessary ones that you have low bank
- With high savings, open a term deposit or CD that doesn't charge a monthly keeping
or maintinence fee and where funds can be transferred into your checking account upon
maturity or reinvested with funds added from a checking account.
- If you're using your ATM/debit/cash card when purchasing groceries, ask for "cash
out" at the end of the transaction. This should show as one transaction on your statement
and will allow you to have extra cash, rather than to run to a bank machine on a separate
occasion and get charged a withdrawal fee.
- Avoid writing personal checks if you can and pay with cash, through EFTPOS, simply
because checks are deemed manual transactions and higher fees are associated with
processing the same. (EFTPOS is a Point Of Sale system used in Australia and New Zealand.)
- Use internet/mobile banking as much as you can, and pay your bills online, transfer
funds all by yourself. These are generally free or have lower fees, purely as you
are your own banker when doing so, and are not standing in the queue at the bank or
calling the call centre.
- If your bank offers you the option NOT to receive statements for which they may
charge you for, opt for paperless statements that can be printed off from your internet
banking service, rather than have them sent out to your home address.
- Keep your statements (if you still receive them) and don't throw them away. You
may need them in the future and ordering a duplicate almost always ensures a call
or a visit to the bank and a charge per reprint. This can be really costly if you
need a whole year's worth of reprints.
- Take an active interest in your banking balances. Don't solely rely on the bank
to look out for you and check the amount of money that's in your account. They are
there to provide the service, but you being proactive is also necessary. This will
ensure that you do have the necessary funds for any automatic payments or direct debits
that are due to go out. Internet banking can really help with this. This will also
ensure that you prevent the dishonor or overdraft fees that the banks charge, which
can be high.
- Keep your cards and check books in a safe place as their cancellation and replacement
can also incur charges.
- Never ever disclose your PIN number or your passwords to your family or friends
or bank staff. Bank staff do not need to know your PIN, but giving your password to
bank staff may be a requirement for identification purposes though, and it's for your
safety. You don't want someone to pretend to be you and find out what your financial
position looks like, or worse.
At the end of the day, your accounts are your responsibility and taking an interest
will save you both time and money, not to mention future frustrations. Read the terms
and conditions that apply to you or have the bank staff explain them, so you gain
better knowledge. If nothing else works, do shop around but remember that there may
be costs for winding down your accounts before you move to the other provider. All
banks offer similar products and services, and if they seem like a good deal, check
what they can do for you before making a change. For example, does their call centre
work on public holidays, do they have branches in your vicinity etc. You don't have
to be a banker to know it all, but the more you do know, the better off you are.
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