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From paper to plastic – how to ditch fees for good

From paper to plastic – how to ditch fees for good

A small fee on your last bank transaction might feel like a drop in the ocean, but if you’re ignoring all your account fees, you may soon be struggling to keep your head above water.

If you take the time to do your research, you could ditch the pesky fees for good.

Ongoing fees

Ongoing or account keeping fees are regular payments charged by your lender outside of interest. They’re common across most financial products, including home loans, car loans and credit cards.

Some of the most frustrating ongoing fees come with bank accounts, as it’s very easy to avoid paying them if you shop around.

Bank accounts with ongoing fees

Company

Bank account

Account keeping fee

Notes

People’s Choice Credit Union

Everyday Account

$6.50

Waived if you have an active Home Loan Package, Financial Planning Relationship or meet three or more additional criteria.

AMP Bank

Bett3r Pay

$6.00

Waived if you deposit $2000 in your account each month

Bank of us

Go To

$6.00

Waived if you deposit $1000 in your account each month

Bankwest

Qantas Transaction Account

$6.00

Waived if you deposit $2000 in your account each month

Source: RateCity.com.au. Data accurate as at 09/09/2019

Some lenders, like the ones mentioned above, will charge you an ongoing/monthly fee. However, these will typically be waived if you meet certain criteria. If you’re set on sticking with a lender that charges these kinds of fees, try to ensure you stick to their rules. $6 a month can quickly turn into $72 a year if you’re not careful.

RateCity.com.au research has found that out of the 144 bank accounts in their database, 43 have ongoing fees. If only 30 per cent of bank accounts have ongoing fees, perhaps it’s time to consider your options?

Each of Australia’s big four banks offers an everyday bank account without ongoing fees, as do a range of smaller providers. If you’ve been with the same bank account since you were a kid that charges an ongoing fee, and you’re looking to ditch it for good, consider switching to a no-fee account.

Annual fees

Annual fees are, as the same suggest, a fee your provider will charge you once a year. These are common in credit cards and home loans, as the annual fee helps account for their benefits, such as a mortgage redraw facility or credit card reward points.

Credit cards with higher-than-average annual fees

Company

Credit card

Purchase rate

Annual fee

Qantas Money

Qantas Premier Titanium

19.99%

$1,200

Citi

Prestige (Citi Rewards Program)

20.99%

$700

American Express

Qantas American Express Ultimate Card

20.74%

$450

Source: RateCity.com.au. Data accurate as at 09/09/2019

Credit cards can have some of the highest annual fees around, but you can’t paint credit card fees with the same brush. Higher fees can be due to the rewards programs and premium services offered to customers. If these services are important to you in a credit card, it may be hard to avoid an annual fee.

There are 28 credit cards without annual fees on RateCity.com.au’s database. If you want to cut annual fees from your budget, you’ll need to do your research.

Use comparison tables to filter out accounts that charge annual fees. You’ll also be able to compare interest rates, features and other fees associated with the product to keep costs down.

Credit cards with zero annual fees

Company

Card

Annual Fee

CUA

Brisbane Heat supporters’ Low Rate Credit Card

$0

First Option Bank Ltd

Low Rate Visa Credit Card

$0

St.George Bank

No Annual Fee Visa

$0

Source: RateCity.com.au. Data accurate as at 09/09/2019

Overseas fees

Everyone’s felt that post-holiday regret when you finally see how much overseas fees stung your shopping spree.

The most common overseas fees are currency conversion fees and ATM withdrawal fees. While you can’t control the exchange rate of the country you’re visiting, you can choose credit cards or bank accounts that don’t charge these fees.

RateCity.com.au research shows the average overseas ATM fee charged by Australian banks is $4.13 per transaction but can climb as high as $5.50. The average currency conversion fee is 3.13 per cent of the transaction value.

Transaction accounts with no international fees

Bank account

Overseas ATM fee

Fee from ATM provider

Currency conversion fee

Admin fees

Notes

ING Orange Everyday

$0

Refunded

$0

$0

Must deposit $1k and make 5 transactions monthly

Citibank Plus

$0

At cost

$0

$0

Fee-free international money transfers

RAMS Action

$0

At cost

$0

$0

Overseas ATM must display the Cirrus or Maestro logo

Source: RateCity.com.au. Data accurate as at 09/09/2019

For example, think about how often you withdraw cash in America for tipping. Say you withdrew money five times over your trip, you’d be charged on average $20.65 for the privilege.

Again, doing a little homework and choosing a fee-free provider could save you the laundry list of overseas fees you might cop on your next holiday.

Bills, bills, bills

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) recently reminded Victorians that receive paper bills they may be eligible for fee exemption.

According to a release by CAV, “an average customer receiving paper bills for their electricity, gas, banking, credit card and phone services could be paying $120 a year just on paper billing fees”.

Providers have exemptions, however, from paper billing fees if customers are:

  • older Victorians
  • registered for a concession
  • receive income support
  • on a hardship program, or
  • do not have access to the internet.

Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria, Sam Jenkin, recommended Victorians “contact your providers and ask if you are eligible for an exemption from paper bill fees.”

“It may be only a couple of dollars for each bill, but it can quickly add up – especially for people on a low income,” Mr Jenkin said.

Avoiding paper bills is a priority for many environmentally conscientious Australians. If you’re still receiving your bank statements and bills via post, switch to email bills to avoid these fees.

If you rely on paper bills for any of the reasons listed above, speak to your bank – you may be able to have the fees waived. You’d be surprised at what your bank is willing to do if you just ask.

How to avoid pesky fees:

  1. Keep $100 in your account. You never know when an unexpected bill might take your account into the negatives. Keeping at least $100 in your bank account at all times can hopefully help you avoid accidental overdrafts.

  2. Meet the criteria. Some fees can be avoided as easily as ensuring you meet minimum deposit amounts in your bank account. Double check the fine print on your financial products and make sure you’re meeting all the criteria.
  3. Make direct deposit bill payments. Some companies will charge you a fee just for taking your money – usually if you use a credit card to pay your bills. Consider making your bill payments direct deposit only, and then setting these up to be paid automatically. This will cut out credit card fees and help you keep on top of bill due dates, so you also avoid overdue fees.
  4. Use comparison tools. Looking for a new credit card that doesn’t charge fees? It’s as easy as doing your research. Use comparison tables to filter through credit cards that don’t charge annual or ongoing fees.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask. Banks want your business. If you’re considering switching to another bank because of the fees your current bank is charging you, you’d be surprised at what they’d be willing to do to keep you on the books. For example, use a comparison table to find a few bank accounts options that don’t charge ongoing fees.

    Call your bank and ask if they’ll match this. Threaten to leave – and be prepared to do so if they won’t cut the fees. After all, you’ve now got a list of fee-free options to choose from.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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