This post is was originally published on The Penny Hoarder
Almost every one of us has a checking account. For many of us, that checking account is the way we pay our bills and budget for our lives.
It’s not where we store an abundance of money.
Most banks offer this service for free with certain stipulations, hoping that once they have you as a checking account customer, you’ll also get a savings account and loans from them.
Recently, some Bank of America customers who have enjoyed a free eBanking checking account got a surprise.
What Bank of America Will Charge Customers With Low Balances
For years, Bank of America has offered an eBanking checking account that allowed consumers to keep a free checking account if they agreed to go paperless and handle most transactions via ATM or online transfer.
Bank of America has eliminated its eBanking checking account and moved those customers to what it calls a Core Checking Account. Members who don’t fit certain criteria for this account may be charged a $12 monthly maintenance fee.
To avoid this fee, customers with a Core Checking Account will need to either have at least one direct deposit of $250 or more each month or maintain a minimum monthly balance of at least $1,500.
Wait. What? Yep. That’s right. Bank of America wants to charge you money for not having enough money. As if outrageous overdraft fees weren’t enough!
To be fair, checking accounts are expensive to maintain for banks. More banks are charging a monthly fee to customers who don’t maintain a minimum balance, The Chicago Tribune reports.
Students under 24 who are enrolled in high school, college or a vocational program are exempt from Bank of America’s fees.
Not everyone is taking this news lying down. There is a petition on Change.org asking Bank of America not to end its free checking. At the time of this post, that petition had more than 50,000 signatures.
If you have regular direct deposits coming into your account, this may not affect you. And if you have $1,500 in your checking account at all times, you may want to consider upgrading to an interest-bearing checking account to cash in on that idle money.
Here’s What to Do to Avoid Checking Account Fees
If you’re one of the many people whom Bank of America will switch over to a Core Checking Account and won’t be exempt from the fees, there are better options out there for you.
First, if you don’t want to switch banks, dig into your financial situation. Does your employer offer direct deposit? If you can get your paycheck via direct deposit, you may have solved the issue. Otherwise, you might want to consider the Bank of America SafeBalance Checking Account. While it does have a $4.95 monthly maintenance fee, that’s less money wasted, and you also don’t have to worry about overdrafts. On the downside, you won’t actually get any checks, but how often do you really need those?
Switching banks can be a pain, but it’s worth it if it will save you money and headaches.
Not sure which bank is right for you? We graded eight checking accounts so you don’t have to do the legwork to find a new place to store your money. Some banks can even help you get your paycheck faster.
Whatever you do, don’t lie back and simply let your bank take $144 of your hard-earned money away from you every year. There are far too many better options out there. Go find one!
Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. He’s paid far too many bank fees in his days. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.