10 Annoying Bank Fees—and How to Avoid Them

Avoid getting slapped with unnecessary fees, like charges for returned mail and foreign transactions.

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A majority of big banks charge a returned deposit fee, but many small banks and credit unions don't tag on this fee, so it might be worth looking into changing where you bank if you think you're going to encounter a lot of bounced checks.

[See How One Man Rebuilt His Retirement Savings.]

5. Foreign transaction fee.

If you buy something from another country with a U.S. credit card, the bank may charge you a conversion fee. For example, Bank of America generally charges a 3 percent fee on foreign purchases used with its credit cards. So for an $80 purchase, the bank charges a $2.40 transaction fee. With Bank of America, it's also important to note that even if a transaction is in U.S. dollars, the bank still applies a foreign transaction fee if it's processed outside the U.S.

"There's a greater potential for fraud with international transactions, so it costs the banks money to protect the consumer," explains Feddis.

If you want to avoid this fee, you can use any number of cards that don't charge for foreign transactions, such as Capital One's Venture and Platinum Prestige cards or Chase's Sapphire Preferred card.

6. Lost debit card fee

Accidentally misplaced your debit card? It'll cost you. Bank of America charges $5 to get a replacement debit card; PNC charges $7.50.

"There is a cost [for the bank] to providing a new debit card, and it's not just the manufacturing," Feddis says. "Banks also pay for the mailing and the fraud protection systems connected to the card."

In addition, some banks charge extra for rush orders, like PNC's $25 expedited delivery fee for a new debit card. To lessen the blow, you don't have to request expedited delivery on your new card—you can simply use cash for payments or a different card in your wallet until the new one arrives.

7. Paper statement fee

If online banking isn't your thing, receiving paper statements could be costing you. TD Bank offers a $1 discount on checking, savings, and money market account maintenance fees when you opt for online statements only. Meanwhile, U.S. Bank charges customers who opt for paper statements up to $2 a month on some checking accounts. Such paper statements are expensive to produce and they're not environmentally friendly, so banks try to dissuade people from getting them, Feddis says.

"The price of postage keeps going up, and it costs banks more than $1 to send a paper statement," Papadimitriou says. "If they do that once a month, that's a lot of money going out."

If you're being charged for paper statements, you have the option of searching for banks that don't charge the fee or looking into an account that enables you to bank entirely electronically.

8. Redeeming rewards points fee

A few banks have begun charging customers a fee for redeeming the points they've accumulated on their rewards cards. At Wells Fargo, for example, you have to pay a $24 processing fee for each airline ticket issued through the bank's rewards vendor. However, this type of fee isn't particularly common, Feddis says. Nonetheless, if you want to avoid paying for using your rewards points, Feddis says you need to shop around and compare various banks' policies.

9. Returned mail fee

When you move, a mail forwarding request with your post office may not be good enough for your bank. Many banks print "return service requested" on their envelopes, so your mail gets sent back to the bank if it can't be delivered, upon which a number of banks charge a fee. U.S. Bank, for example, charges a $5 fee for the second and subsequent months that a statement is undeliverable. Many regional banks also charge a fee for this: FirstBank & Trust, Bank of Arkansas, and Bank of Oklahoma charge undeliverable mail fees of $15.

"There's a potential for identity theft with returned mail, so it triggers other actions on the part of the bank that cost money," Feddis says.

These fees can add up, so make sure you update your address with your bank upon moving.

10. Human teller fee

Some banks even charge a fee for using a person to handle certain transactions. For a Bank of America eBanking checking account, there's no fee when you choose online paperless statements and make your deposits and withdrawals online or with an ATM. However, if you use a teller, you have to pay the monthly maintenance fee of $8.95. If you'd like the ability to consult a teller, seek out bank accounts that don't levy this charge. "It's easily avoided by choosing an account that aligns with your behavior," Feddis says.