3 Tips for Avoiding Overdraft Fees

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Overdraft fees have long been plaguing bank customers across the nation with hefty charges averaging at $225 per year, according to a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. To avoid paying these unnecessary fees, follow these tips.

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1. Track your balances.

The best way to avoid overdrawing from your checking account is to consistently monitor your checking account balances so that you know how much you can spend. Being aware of the state of your accounts will help you make smarter choices when it comes to making purchases using your debit card, writing checks and withdrawing cash. Try using bill organizing and account management service Manilla.com to see all of your account balances in one place.

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2. Read the fine print.

Before you enroll in any overdraft protection program, be aware of any fees associated with the program because they vary based on the bank and type of account. The good news is that, in order to increase transparency, a federal regulation went into effect in 2010 that said consumers must consent to join overdraft protection programs, as opposed to banks and credit unions automatically enrolling customers in them. Still, it’s important to understand the risks and fees of these programs. For example, some banks limit the number of overdraft charges per day to just two, while others have either no cap on fees or caps that permit up to 12 overdrafts per day, according to the Consumer Finance report.

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3. Tighten your budget.

Another way to avoid overdrawing from your account? Spend less money. Identify the reasons why you may be overspending and the areas where you could cut back. For example, many people overlook the fact that their utility providers will often help them get the best rates and deals by simply asking for them. Call your providers to find out what seasonal promotions are going on — you could end up knocking off a huge percentage of your monthly bill. Next, see if you can trim down the grocery portion of your budget with weekly meal planning. Start by making a weekly menu, not just a shopping list, says Linda Descano, president and CEO of Citi’s Women & Co. Then, shop only from the list to save time and money.

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