Want a few hundred bucks? Keeping hold of money you don’t have to spend in the first place could net you an extra payday.
After reading this article, spend about five minutes making changes, and you’ll save hundreds of dollars a year. Sound good?
Megamoney down the drain
People throw money away every single day.
They toss a few bucks at an ATM to get cash and lose a few more thanks to a late fee on a neglected bill. Meanwhile, overlooked services siphon off funds on a monthly basis. Drip, drop.
The little losses don’t hurt at the time, but they add up. Last year, Americans paid over $6 billion dollars in overdraft and ATM fees to Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase alone.
But what can you do about it?
Patching up the unnoticed holes in your bank account is easier than you might think. Here’s how you can put a stop to expenses that drain hundreds of dollars a year from your fellow Americans.
1) Just say no to bank fees
Average ATM fees have grown from $1.75 per transaction in 2007 to $4.52 in 2016. Banks have even found a way to take a bite out of government assistance. In 2012, Californians paid $19 million in ATM fees just to access their EBT food and cash benefits. That’s enough to buy a full year of school supplies for 20% of the state’s K-12 students.
Who’s raking in all that cash? JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo, to name a few. And yes, those are the same “Big Four” banks that paid into the National Mortgage Settlement –the second largest civil settlement in U.S. history– for their unlawful parts in the 2010 foreclosure crisis. For some reason, customers stay faithful. With over 245 million accounts, these four banks control a huge portion of American personal wealth.
But you don’t have to suffer from their predatory practices. If you’re getting stung at the ATM, for overdrafting, or for not parking enough cash in specific accounts, consider switching to a bank that won’t charge you fees.
Could it be that simple?
Well, check out an account with Simple or Capital One 360– you’ll never be charged a minimum balance, and they even cover some overdrafts. There’s a range of free checking accounts with minimal fees, and this tool from Magnify Money can help you find one that’s local to you.
Or better yet, check out your local credit unions. Many offer access to the extensive, fee-free CO-OP ATM network, and some even waive out-of-network ATM fees. The Credit Union National Association estimates that credit union members saved $8.5 billion last year simply by using credit unions instead of banks. Credit unions are renowned for lower fees and more personalized service than big banks, which is probably why 3.7 million Americans joined one last year.
2) Use free apps to make life easier
Get your smartphone out, because there are free apps that do everything from pay your bills to summon roadside assistance. Welcome to the future.
Stop spending so much time paying your bills
Thanks to Prism’s smart notifications, you’ll never pay a late fee again. With a few taps and a swipe, you tell Prism how much to pay and when– no need to log into individual biller websites ever again. It somehow makes paying my bills –dare I say it?– fun. And while you’re having fun saving money, get Digit– it uses predictive algorithms to transfer small amounts of cash from your checking account to a savings account. There are unlimited transfers, no fees, and a no-overdraft guarantee. It’s the perfect way to save more money without thinking about it.
Stop paying annual dues for roadside assistance
AAA has dominated the field of roadside assistance for decades. But the annual dues paid by its 55.6 million members (some individual plans exceed the $100 mark) may soon make it a thing of the past. Enter Urgent.ly, the on-demand roadside service app with no annual dues or membership fees. It’s available 24 hours a day, everywhere in America, and it offers flat fees ($75 for most common issues, $99 for a tow of up to 10 miles) and singular features like accident alerts and service tracking for family members.
Stop paying to monitor your credit
A recent study by NerdWallet revealed that American households with debt owe an average of $130,922. According to a spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, individuals who seek their financial counseling have an average of six credit cards. The last thing someone with that much debt and that many credit cards needs is to spend money on credit monitoring, but it happens a lot. In fact, credit monitoring services constitute four of the top five services cancelled through the Truebill subscription management app.
Fortunately, CreditKarma offers credit scores along with credit reports and monitoring, all for free. While you’re getting yours, check out their tools and approachable advice that help you do everything from pick a credit card to buy a home.
Get identity theft insurance for free
The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that in 2014, 17.6 million people in the U.S. fell victim to identity theft. According to the most recent data available, it’s a $24.7 billion dollar problem even before you factor in the time those 17.6 million victims spent dealing with the aftermath. The Department of Justice knows how bad it is, as made painfully clear by this anecdote on their website:
In one notorious case of identity theft, the criminal, a convicted felon, not only incurred more than $100,000 of credit card debt, obtained a federal home loan, and bought homes, motorcycles, and handguns in the victim’s name, but called his victim to taunt him…
Don’t stop being careful, but stop paying for identity theft insurance right away. Civic offers identity theft alerts, fraud support, and $1 million dollars worth of identity theft insurance for life, all without charging a monthly fee like most credit monitoring services.
Stop paying commissions to invest
The price of entry to the world of investment is prohibitive to many, but that’s all about to change, thanks to Robinhood. Traditional brokerages charge commissions on each trade and require minimum deposits of at least $500, but Robinhood rejects both. Smart notifications and real-time market data help you maximize your portfolio’s performance, and the app’s sleek look and ease of use make doing so a breeze.
With these tools, you can’t avoid saving money
Bank fees and other unnecessary expenses can feel unavoidable at times, but they’re not trifles to be ignored– your losses could amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Fortunately, there are easy, manageable steps you can take. Switch to a bank that’s not out to penalize you and cut your costs with free apps. Before you know it, you’ll put the stress of unwanted fees behind you.