Hate paying fees? Here's how to avoid them

26th of October 2011 | by RateCity Staff

Bank fees are one of the certainties of life. They come under various names and guises, across pretty much every aspect of banking, so it's no wonder Aussies often cite fees as the primary reason for their mistrust of banks.

In 2010, Australian banks charged a total of $1.14 billion in bank fees, according to Reserve Bank data. That tidy sum covered the full gamut of banking services from savings accounts to home loans, credit cards and personal loans.

There are, however, ways you can avoid or minimise the impact of bank fees.

Choose the right savings account

Banks offer different types of transaction and savings accounts with a variety of fee structures. Make sure you choose the right account for your needs and confirm annual fees and conditions - check your current account's fees and if you find a more favourable account, make the switch. For example, if you pay your bills using BPay online, ensure your account doesn't charge a fee for online payments.

Or you may consider no-fee accounts, such as NAB's Classic Banking account, which has no monthly account fees, no fees for overdrawing and the ability to use other banks' ATMs for free. At RateCity, you can research and apply for over 500 savings accounts.

Stay within the free transactions limit

Most accounts carry a limited number of free transactions, after which you are charged a fee for each transaction exceeding the limit. You can avoid these fees by planning your transactions - for example, withdraw larger amounts once a week on the same day - and therefore staying within the fee-free monthly transactions.

Always use your bank's ATMs
The majority of bank accounts whack you with a fee if you use an ATM not owned by your bank. Always plan ahead to ensure you withdraw cash from your bank's ATMs so you are not caught short. Alternatively, you can apply for an account such as BankWest's Zero Transaction Account that allows free transactions at all major bank ATMs in Australia.

Do not overdraw

Check your account balance regularly to ensure you have enough money available for any direct debits, otherwise you may overdraw your account and be slapped with a sizeable fee.

Maintain your minimum balance

Some accounts require a minimum monthly balance and charge an account maintenance fee if your balance drops below that level. Ask your bank if your account carries such a limit and check it regularly to ensure it never drops below the minimum balance.