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Simple Steps To Avoid New Banking Fees

Citibank employees assist a customer at a bank branch. (credit: Getty Images/Mario Tama)

Citibank employees assist a customer at a bank branch. (credit: Getty Images/Mario Tama)

(CBS) – Banks are raising many of their fees. According to Bankrate.com, only 65 percent of banks still offered free checking accounts last year — that’s down 11 percent from 2009. In fact, the cost of managing your money is going up across the board, with banks raising fees to, observers say, pad their profits, or help make up for revenue banks say they’re losing due to financial regulation.

So how can you protect your money? CBS News shared some tips on “The Early Show” Tuesday on how to beat those fees.

Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis explained, “Consumers are really getting hit with a double whammy. Between interest rates being at historical lows — you’re being paid practically nothing to keep your money in the bank — and fees being at historical highs, you’re basically really getting knocked around as a consumer. So the average fee, when you look at a checking account, is above $9. On top of that, an overdraft fee is $29.26. And using another bank’s ATM on average is going to run you $1.63. So they’re going up across the board and these are just averages. They can be a lot higher.”

So how do you get around these fees?

One suggestion is to look for accounts that do not incur fees for just having an account. “There are lots of accounts out there where you’re not going to have to pay a fee in order to do checking with a bank,” said Jarvis. “One of the great resources out there to find those accounts is Bankrate.com. It is a wonderful resource to look to find out where there’s a bank that suits your needs, and also, is going to charge you less. On top of that, you can bank online. Community banks and credit unions are also wonderful places. Think about banking locally.”

But it’s important to read the fine print on a new account. “First of all, you want to make sure that there is no average monthly [balance] requirement — because if there is, you need to be able to meet that monthly requirement,” Jarvis explained. “On top of that, you want to make sure that you don’t have to use the account a certain number of times — that you’re not restricted and limited on the number of times that you can do transactions with the account. And lastly, you want to make sure that your account activity … at the present level is going to fulfill the needs of the bank.”

“You have to do your due diligence,” she continued. “You have to do your research. But if you’re really intent on staying with the bank you already bank with, you can go back to them and say, ‘Listen, there are better deals out there. I’ve been a great customer to you and I would like to maintain this account for you, but you’re going to have to lower the fees.’ In some cases, if you are a great customer, you haven’t suffered overdrafts in the past, they’re going to let you stick around.”

Trying to get a better deal isn’t a bad idea. Like Jarvis said, “The worst they [the banks] can do is say ‘no.’”