Banks are in business to make a profit, not to save you money or clear up misconceptions you may have. For example, if you postmark a check for Friday and pay it Wednesday, many assume it won’t post for two more days—wrong. The bank will likely run it through the day you cash it, and if you don’t have enough money in your account to cover the amount, expect to incur overdraft fees or have the check bounce.
FEES CAN BE WAIVED IF YOU ASK—NICELY
If you don’t incur fees more than once or twice a year, you can call your bank and state your case for why they should reverse the fee—but, it better be a good one! Also, being nice to the customer service rep can go a long way. Even if they can’t eliminate the fee, they may be able to reduce it significantly. Lesson: learn from your mistake so it doesn’t happen again.
YOUR CURRENT TRANSACTION HISTORY ISN’T THAT CURRENT
Retailers that have already cashed your check may not show up on pending for a full 24 hours. And, that’s just on a business day. A cashed checked on a Friday may not show as pending until Monday. So don’t go wild spending cash you’ve already reserved for a bill. Lesson: always go by the balance in your checkbook, not your bank’s transaction history.
DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE
Always leave three business days before your bill is due to pay it—minimum. Database systems can be down, holidays can screw things up, and other unforeseen circumstances can occur which you will still be held liable for. Lesson: always pay your bills early if you can.
THAT DEPOSIT ISN’T YOURS YET
Ask your bank when your full funds are available from deposits. Some limit the amounts you can take out during the 24-hour pending period of deposit. Lesson: don’t go withdrawing the full amount of your paycheck before the deposit has cleared, or you could find yourself the unlucky recipient of an overdraft fee.
BANK EMPLOYEES ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS
Gone are the days when bankers just cashed your check and made pleasant chit chat with you. All bankers are now salespeople who are looking to earn a commission off talking you into opening a new bank account, credit card, or loan. This is purely for their financial benefit, not yours. Lesson: be firm when you say no and on your guard every time you walk into your bank.
KNOW YOUR OPTIONS
While many banks operate the same way, their services (and costs attached to them) vary. So, if you need a loan to open a home equity line, visit at least three banks to get some quotes. Lesson: you don’t need to necessarily go through the bank you have accounts with. This won’t entitle you to an automatic discount, and some other banks may even give you the best rate simply to earn new business from you.