Brace yourself: we have alarming news. Australians spend around $13 billion a year on bank fees. And while some bank charges might be a thing of the past, others still exist.
If you’re getting hit with fees, stop!
Redirect the cash you’ve been paying and use those funds for something else, such as growing your money instead.
Banks and financial institutions charge different rates and fees across their various products, so, depending on what your banking needs are, you might be able to save money by shopping around for a better deal.
The reality is that many of us didn’t actively choose the banks we are signed up with. Maybe your parents set you up with a bank account at their bank or maybe you signed up through a school banking program.
Another reality: by the time you are an adult, it’s possible you’ll avoid switching banks because it’s just too much work. And the banks know this. You are “sticky” money (i.e. you’re not going anywhere).
Comparison sites such as Choice, Finder, Canstar and Rate City can do some of the work for you, to help you weed out the products and features you do want and avoid the fees you don’t need.
Speaking of fees, let’s take a look at some of the bank fees you could avoid paying.
1. Account keeping fees
While some banks do still charge you for the privilege of holding an account, you can definitely find one that doesn’t. By finding an account without a monthly account fee, you should save yourself a few dollars each month, according to Finder.
To get you started, some financial institutions offer accounts with zero monthly account fees.
2. Credit card annual fees
If you’re paying an annual credit card fee, you should consider whether it’s worth your while to switch to a provider with zero annual fees. Even if you can seemingly justify the fee with the rewards you get in return, it’s always a good idea to weigh up if having the cash now is better for you long-term.
Keep in mind: if the card has no annual fee, it may also have a higher interest rate.
Because some ATMs have a daily limit, you may find there are times when you need to make a non-ATM withdrawal, either over the phone or by walking into a bank branch. (Yes, branches are still around!)
This could come in handy if you need to pay for something more sizeable, such as a rental deposit. And it can help you to avoid making multiple ATM withdrawals over a number of days.
4. Domestic ATM fees
Things took a turn for the better in 2017 when the major banks announced they would no longer charge ATM fees for customers of other banks.
This follows in the wake of online banks such as ING and ME who have not charged customers ATM withdrawal fees for years.
The trend to scrap ATM fees is in line with a decreasing proportion of people using ATMs, in favour of swiping and tapping their cards.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Reserve Bank shows ATM withdrawals per capita have decreased from 40 times a year in 2010 to about 25 times a year in 2018.
While this has been happening, electronic payments have also risen (since 2000) from around 100 each year, on average, to almost 500 a year in 2018.
Even if you think your bank doesn’t charge ATM fees, there can be exceptions, so you need to do a thorough check. For example, if you were to use a rediATM, a direct charge fee would be charged by rediATM, unless your bank is a partner of the rediATM network.
So, keep an eye out for these.
5. International ATM and transaction fees
International ATM and transaction fees have to be one of the biggest bugbears of overseas travel — especially when you’re already losing money when you exchange currency.
The good news is you can avoid getting slugged for transaction fees when travelling.
NAB offers a card with no foreign currency fee on international purchases. Citi also offers a card with no foreign currency fee when withdrawing or purchasing using the local currency.
Meanwhile, online-only bank ING also doesn’t charge international transaction fees and will give you a rebate on overseas ATM withdrawal fees, as long as you meet certain conditions such as making a certain number of transactions per month and making regular deposits into their account. It’s one of the perks of using ING as your everyday bank.
To sum up, you could be avoiding some basic banking fees. If you aren’t, it might be time to shop around for a better deal.
While it may be a hassle to cancel and set-up new direct debits, the peace of mind and the money saved will be well worth it.