Paycheck Chronicles

Bank Fees You Want To Avoid

Military families have access to a ton of great banking products, but we still sometimes find ourself paying unnecessary fees for services that we don't need or that maybe should just be free.  According to, a fee-free banking platform, 61% of bank revenue from US consumer checking accounts comes from overdraft and insufficient funds fees.  Wow - that's a lot!

If you are comparing bank accounts and looking for to see what fees you might be charged, here is a list of things you need to consider (with many thanks to for the post inspiration and suggesting these fees):

Monthly Maintenance Fees

Thankfully, military members have access to a wide variety of accounts that don't offer any sort of monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance for free accounts.  Keep your eyes open, though - you never know when your account terms will change and, if you are like most people, you don't read every notice that comes through your inbox.

ATM Fees

There are two common automated teller machine (ATM) fees:  the out-of-network ATM fee, and the foreign ATM fee.  The out-of-network ATM fee is the fee that your bank charges for using an ATM that is not in your banks network.  Many great bank accounts waive this fee.  You may still be charge a fee by the ATM owner, so be sure to look for ATMs that advertise that they are free to use.

The foreign ATM fee is for using an ATM outside the United States.  This cost does make some sense, because those transactions do cost the bank money.  Depending on your travel and living situation, this fee may or may not be important to you.  We've lived outside the US for 7 of the last 16 years, so foreign ATM fees are important to me.  If you rarely leave the US, a high foreign ATM fee might not matter to you.

Inactivity Fees

This one really makes me mad!  I have had two different accounts stripped of their balances and closed due to the implementation of inactivity fees, typically about $5 per month.  This makes no sense to me.  If the bank isn't sending out paper statements, there is almost no cost to having $5 or $50 or $5 million dollars just sitting there, improving the bank's balance sheet.

Over the Counter Transaction Fees

Some bank accounts that are otherwise good values make up for their low fees by charging you to talk to an actual teller or bank employee.  That's fine if you never, ever, ever have to talk to a teller.  But what happens when you get a check made out to you and your Dad and you don't know how to deposit it, or you need to take out a lot of cash for vacation and it exceeds the ATM daily limit?

Stop Payment Fees

On rare occasion, you may write a check that gets lost or stolen or you discover that the transaction was fraudulent.  When that happens, you can stop payment on a check.  It's simple and fast for the bank, and it typically has a hefty fee attached.

There are many other sneaky little fees that banks can charge, and you can ask your bank for a copy of their fee schedule or find it somewhere in your online account access.  When choosing your bank account, be sure to balance the fees that you are likely to incur to find the least expensive bank account for your situation.

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