Smart Money Management: 8 Tips to Avoid Common Checking Account Fees

Having a checking account is a must for most people because it offers easy access to money with convenient features such as a debit card, checks and smart money management tools including calculators and budgeting options. Since most checking accounts also come with fees, you may be wondering if there’s a way to avoid checking account fees.

At Addition Financial, we want our members to have access to checking accounts with useful features and affordable fees. With that in mind, here are eight tips to help you avoid paying a monthly fee on your checking account.

What Are Common Account Fees People Encounter?

Before we give you our best tips to avoid fees, let’s talk about the fees that your financial institution may charge:

  • Monthly maintenance fee. A monthly maintenance fee is also known as an account fee and is something that a credit union or bank may charge for having a checking account. Not every financial institution charges a monthly maintenance fee but many do.
  • ATM fee. An ATM fee is a fee that you incur any time you use your debit card at an ATM. These fees are typically in tiers with higher fees for out-of-network ATMs. Some financial institutions don’t charge a fee for in-network ATMs.
  • Overdraft fee. An overdraft is a fee that’s incurred if you write a check and have insufficient funds in your account to cover it. These fees can add up quickly if you make a mistake and write several checks that bounce.

These fees will vary in amount depending upon which financial institution you choose for your checking account. Credit union fees are typically lower than a bank fee because account holders are owners and ownership translates to advantageous fees and interest rates.

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Is It Possible to Waive Specific Account Fees?

While most checking accounts have fees associated with them, it is sometimes possible to waive specific account fees if you meet the requirements laid out by your credit union or bank. Here are some examples.

Monthly Service Fee

A monthly service fee is another term for a monthly maintenance fee. Many checking accounts come with a monthly service fee, but there are free checking accounts with no fee. There may be an option to waive the monthly fee associated with your account. For example, the Addition Financial Classic Checking account allows members to waive the $5 monthly fee by signing up for direct deposit of $1,000 per month or making a minimum of 10 ATM transactions per month.


Many financial institutions do not charge ATM fees for transactions carried out at an in-network ATM. However, most do charge a fee for foreign ATM use. You may be able to waive some of these fees by choosing a financial institution that reimburses account holders for some foreign ATM fees. For example, our members can waive two foreign ATM fees each month with our Classic Checking Account.

Overdraft Fee

Overdraft fees may be incurred if you write a check that bounces due to insufficient funds in your checking account. You may be able to avoid paying overdraft fees if you choose an account that includes overdraft protection. For example, our Benefits Checking Account waives the fee for one overdraft protection transfer from savings each month. Some financial institutions offer overdraft protection as a paid product, too.

Check Fees

Many financial institutions provide a small supply of free checks when you open a checking account. They may charge a fee when you order new checks. However, there may be an option to qualify for free checks by maintaining a minimum balance or making a specified number of ATM transactions each month.

What Common Checking Account Mistakes Can Lead to Account Fees?

There are some common mistakes people make with their checking accounts that can lead to fees. The good news is that they’re avoidable in most cases.

Falling Below Your Minimum Account Balance

Many credit unions and banks waive account fees for accounts that meet a minimum balance requirement. A common mistake is to allow the account balance to drop below the minimum balance, an event that will trigger a return of your monthly fee. 

Delaying Deposits

While many of us receive money electronically, it may sometimes happen that you receive a paper check that needs to be deposited. If you don’t deposit your check in a timely manner, you may incur a fee if your balance dips below a certain level or you bounce a check. With mobile deposit, you can deposit checks using your phone as soon as you receive them.

No Direct Deposit

Almost every employer offers employees the option to receive a direct deposit of their paycheck. If you’re not signed up for direct deposit, you may be missing out on a waiver of your monthly account fee and run the risk of overdraft fees. 

Not Reviewing Your Account Regularly

With any checking account, it’s essential to review your account regularly to make sure that you understand which payments have cleared and how much money you have available to meet your financial obligations. With digital banking, you can log into your account whenever you want. A regular review will allow you to prevent overdrafts, track spending and can be the best way to spot potential frauds and scams, as well.

8 Tips to Avoid Checking Account Fees

Now, let’s review some of our best tips to help you avoid checking account fees. 

#1: Sign Up for Direct Deposit

One of the easiest ways to avoid checking account fees is to enroll in direct deposit with your employer. Direct deposits often result in a fee waiver. They can also protect against overdrafts by giving you access to your pay as quickly as possible, ensuring that you have money coming into your account on a regular basis.

#2: Maintain a Minimum Balance

Another common way to avoid checking account fees is to choose an account that waives the fee in return for maintaining a minimum balance. The key is to choose a checking account with a relatively low minimum balance that you’re sure you can maintain. For example, many accounts require a minimum balance between $1,000 and $2,000.

#3: Use Budgeting Tools to Avoid Overdrafts

Choosing a credit union or bank that provides its account holders with access to money management tools is an easy way to avoid overdraft fees. When you create a budget and stick to it, you’re unlikely to bounce checks and can avoid overdraft fees entirely. You can also use tools to estimate your monthly expenses.

#4: Transfer Funds Between Accounts as Needed

As we noted above, some of Addition Financial’s checking accounts offer one or more waived account transfers per month to protect against overdrafts. Even if your account doesn’t have this option, you can avoid overdrafts and overdraft fees by keeping an eye on your checking account balance and transferring money from your savings account to prevent overdrafts. 

#5: Set Up Account Alerts

One of the best ways we know to avoid fees is to take advantage of your financial institution’s alert system to get notifications when your balance dips below a certain threshold. In most cases, you can get both email notifications and text or push notifications. For example, you might set up a notification to alert you if your balance comes within $100 of the minimum balance requirement, so you can transfer funds as needed.

#6: Avoid Using Out-of-Network or Foreign ATMs

Credit unions and banks typically do not charge an ATM fee if you use one of their ATMs or an ATM that’s in their network. The same is not true of out-of-network or foreign ATMs. You can avoid ATM fees by choosing an account that will reimburse you for some ATM fees or by doing your best to avoid using out-of-network ATMs. For example, if you’re traveling, you could withdraw cash before you leave, buy cashier’s checks or simply use your debit card (stored in your mobile wallet) for purchases.

#7: Get Free Checks

As we noted above, many banks provide a small number of free checks when you open a checking account but may charge a fee to order more. You may be able to avoid paying for checks if you maintain a minimum balance or sign up for direct deposit. Rush fees may be an issue if you wait until the last minute to order checks, so you can save on those by ordering early, well before you run out of checks.

#8: Use a Mobile Wallet

If you lose your debit card or your card is stolen, you may be required to pay a fee to get a replacement card. You may be able to convince your credit union or bank to replace your card for free. You can also minimize the risk of losing your card by using a mobile wallet instead of carrying your card around.

Avoid High Checking Account Fees with Addition Financial

It’s possible to have a checking account and avoid paying most common checking account fees. You can use the eight tips here to minimize the fees you pay while still getting the most from your checking account.

Do you need a checking account with minimum fees that comes with free financial tools and education? Addition Financial is here to help! Click here to learn about our checking account options and become a member today.

The content provided here is not legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. Please consult with legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific needs or questions you may have. We do not make any guarantees as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not support any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability or legal obligations for your use of this information.