4 Reasons Your Bank Account Isn’t Stacking Up (and How to Fix It)

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If you’ve ever paid a bundle to access your money through the ATM, or been shocked to see monthly maintenance fees appear on your statement, you’re all too familiar with the infuriating practices some banks lean on to bolster their bottom line.

But while some institutions are nickel-and-diming even their most loyal banking customers, there are plenty that subscribe to a different way of doing business – a way that can greatly benefit you, the consumer.

So before you chalk up high fees and bad service to a banking industry mainstay, consider these reasons for biting the bullet and switching to a new bank instead. Your money will be so glad you did.

1) You’re Paying Too Much in ATM Fees

If you’re anything like me, your need for cash happens outside of normal banking hours and nowhere near where a bank branch of choice is located. So cash equates to a heavy reliance on ATMs. Unfortunately, the fees attached to accessing cash at an out-of-network ATM is at an all time high according to a recent Bankrate survey.

How high exactly? On average, banks charge $2.88 to let noncustomers withdraw funds from their ATM, but on top of that, the customer’s bank will charge an additional $1.64 for using that out-of-network ATM. All in all, you’re looking at $4.52 for each transaction – an increase of 21% over the past five years.

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2) Your Savings Aren’t Respected  

There’s a reason why savings accounts aren’t a great holding ground for excess cash – interest rates at most banks are dismal. According to GoBankingRates, the average rate currently sits at .08%. If you happen to have $100,000 or more, that rate inches up to .12%.

While these rates are going to be low across the board – especially in comparison to decades past – some banks are considerably more generous than others.

3) You’re Paying for Account Maintenance

When I first saw a charge for account maintenance on my statement for a bank I am no longer with, I was appalled. I wasn’t entirely sure what this charge covered, considering I wasn’t receiving any extra service or perks that I hadn’t been receiving before (which already amounted to nothing).

But apparently I’m not alone.

A recent MoneyRates.com survey found that average monthly checking account fees now sit at $13.09. In addition, large banks are the least likely to offer free checking and have the highest fees on their accounts. On average, these big institutions charge maintenance fees closer to $15 a month.

Free checking is now offered at only 25% of banks, but the key here is it does exist.

4) Your Bank Doesn’t Cater to Your Particular Needs

Not every bank is treated equal and not every banking customer has the same needs. While one person just needs access to cash on-the-go, minus the exorbitant fees, another could be interested in landing a mortgage at the same institution where their savings account is.

If you are all about mobile banking, but your bank has a sad excuse for an app, or if you routinely need to speak to customer service but all you get is a robot, it’s time to kick your bank to the curb and look elsewhere. Research may be required, but it will be worth it in the end.

Yes, There is Hope

According to the Best Banks in America TIME MONEY survey, there is still hope.

“Demand better. ‘There’s still plenty of free accounts out there,’ says Bankrate.com chief financial analyst Greg McBride. ‘Consumers are not hostage to rising fees and balance requirements.’ Just by moving to a bank with no maintenance fees and no ATM fees, MONEY estimates that you could save more than $360 a year.”

If you’re willing to step outside of the traditional banking box, for instance, an online bank might have everything you need – plus higher than average interest rates and lower than average fees.

As someone who fell victim to a thankless banking experience due to the promise of a free Kindle, take it from me – upfront research can save a significant amount of money and headache later on.

This year’s list of the best banks is a great place to start.

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