How I Avoid Check Fees
If there’s one thing I hate its a bank charging you a fee to access your money. It’s your money, you shouldn’t be charged a fee to access it. Check fees are no exception. If that doesn’t get me fired up enough, it’s when you get a fee but have no idea how it happened. (Steps on soapbox)
Why Check Fees Exist
In the most recent account agreement from a large national bank, the word “fee” or “fees” appears 189 times throughout the 31-page document. It’s not a stretch to say fees are now heavily embedded in the banking process.
It’s been said banks charge fees because the banking industry has evolved. Banks are providing more services to customers which, they say, costs the bank more money. This may very well be true, however, if this is the case, why are these fees not provided to consumers in a clear concise format. They are instead provided with a bland, hard to read, document with the hope it will go unread.
I’ve been banking at a national bank for the past few years. When I opened an account the associate asked if I wanted checks. “They’ll be mailed to you, it’s no problem at all.” When I asked if there were any fees associated with getting checks this way I was told it would be $30 for a book of checks. Disagreeing with bank fees in principle I asked if there were any ways to get free checks as I don’t write physical checks very often. I was informed that I could come into a branch office once a day and get a sheet of checks printed at “no cost”.
So that’s what I did. For years I would go into a branch every few months and get checks printed. It was a minor inconvenience but not something I minded all that much. That was until last week.
I was looking over my most recent transactions in mint, when I noticed something, two $2 “check counter fees” on two subsequent days. Now I’ve seen fees show up before, but they’ve always been followed by a credit. This usually happens by keeping a certain minimum balance in my account. This, while annoying, never bothered me because I wasn’t actually having to pay
After a week the charges were still charged to the account and no credits were given. When I called my bank I was told that these charges were for getting checks printed at my local bank. I explained how I had been doing this for years with no fees. When asked how long this policy had been in place, I wasn’t given a straight answer. Instead of arguing I simply asked what the recommended process was for obtaining checks. I was informed that my only option was to buy a book of checks for $35.
If you haven’t been able to tell bank fees, no matter how small, are something I always fight to avoid.
How to Avoid Check Fees
Credit Unions. Banks are for-profit entities, Credit Unions are (in most cases) not-for-profit entities. This means there are fewer fees as a whole. Now, whenever I need to write a paper check I do two things.
- Transfer money from the bank to the credit union (or keep enough on hand for small stuff)
- Simply write a check from my CU account
The CU is more than happy to print off checks for me whenever I need it. Simply put, no more check fees.
When selecting a Credit Union for this purpose there is one thing to keep in mind. Not every CU has the best online banking system. This can make it difficult to transfer money between a bank and the CU. Some will require you to fill out a paper form, mail (not even fax!) those forms to the CU, then wait a period of time before money can be transferred.
What have you done to avoid a bank fee? Make sure to leave any ideas in the comments!