How to reduce bank fees if your income’s been hit by COVID-19
For those whose bank accounts have dwindled due to reduced or terminated employment during the COVID-19 pandemic, another factor may also be causing their cash to be whittled away: the fees imposed by some banks to keep checking and savings accounts open.
A new study from Bankrate.com reports that, among other findings, households that have taken a financial hit since last March are paying more than $11 per month in checking account fees, while those whose incomes have not been impacted pay less than $3 monthly.
Data specific to New Jersey is not known, according to John McWeeney, president and CEO of the New Jersey Bankers Association, but he said there are more consumer choices for banking services than ever before, so anyone's needs can be met.
"The banks have been very proactive working with their borrowing customers to offer loan deferrals and things like that, so I would encourage any bank customer who is having issues to go in and talk to their bank," McWeeney said.
For instance, if you have a checking account that earns interest, and now it's costing you more to keep that account open than the interest is worth, McWeeney suggested exploring a non-interest-bearing account, which is more likely to be free to maintain.
One drawback of interest rates being as low as they are right now, he said, is that you are not likely to earn much back from those accounts anyway.
"If customers are struggling with fees, I'd encourage them to look at the non-interest-bearing checking accounts, and utilize direct deposit to really make it a free account," McWeeney said.
Always be smart about how you manage money, McWeeney cautioned. Try to stay within your bank system for ATM withdrawals, or take cash back on debit purchases at stores, to avoid ATM fees.
And also, be ever cognizant of overdraft fees, he said.
"There are services now that banks provide where you can get an email alert or text alert to let you know that you're getting close to your balance," McWeeney said. "You can also hook up your checking account with a savings account."
Bankrate's report showed that millennials report paying $15 per month on average in fees, while baby boomers pay just $2, which McWeeney said is proof that you can be off to a successful start in your career and still not know anything about financial services.
"As you start to earn more income, you might want to change the type of basic accounts you're utilizing where you can earn interest on the money, or you might want to hook it into an automatic savings program," he said.
One good thing to keep in mind, McWeeney said, is that if it would help you to learn more about banking, copious resources are available in-person, online, and on paper for you to educate yourself.