Don’t Let Chicago Bank Account Fees Leave You in Debt

I'm used to paying for services like electricity, TV and food - but somehow I don't think I should have to pay a bank to take my money.

Yet banks in Chicago and all over the country are charging Americans hundreds of dollars per year just for the privilege of being customers, according to Chicago bankruptcy attorneys. Since most of us don't budget for those kinds of fees, they can catch us off guard. Sometimes we don't even realize we're being charged until we take a closer look at our statement - and, by then, it's too late.

Twenty bucks a month is $20 you could spend on tank of gas, a meal in your favorite restaurant or - best of all - towards lowering your debt. Instead, it's going to your bank. How would you like to recover that lost cash? Here are a few tips.

Read the fine print
Last year my bank raised the minimum balance on my account from $300 to $1,000. Apparently they notified me, but it was hidden in fine print and, not surprisingly, I missed it. Suddenly a $10 charge showed up on my statement - I guess my balance had dropped below a grand. Fortunately, I called my bank on it right away. They waived the fee and told me that by setting up direct deposit, I could become exempt from future fees. But they probably wouldn't have been so understanding had I let them charge me for six months before making a stink about it - and I'd probably be out a non-refundable $60. Long story short, those term updates your bank sends aren't junk mail. Neither is your statement. Read them.

Shop around
Most banks have several checking account options. For the least cost, pick the one with the least amount of features. Perks like free check refills are nice - but if you have to pay more to get them, they really aren't free, are they? Besides, if you pay your bills online you probably only need a couple paper checks a month anyway. Most banks still offer a free checking account, even if you have to go online to get it. As an added bonus, free accounts usually require a smaller deposit to set up and have lower minimum balances.

Keep an eye on your balance

Sometimes it's not them, it's us. Bouncing checks is one of the fastest ways to lose money. The average non-sufficient funds fee is currently about $30. If you write several bad checks in a day, you could cost yourself hundreds of dollars. Keep track of what's in your account. In a pinch, you can use a credit card, but you don't want to get in the habit of spending more than you have. That leads to another problem - debt.

If you're drowning in debt, banks fees aren't your only problem - but they certainly don't help. Bankruptcy can make it possible to get back in control of your finances. With more money in your pocket - and your bank account - you can free yourself of fees. Find out for free if bankruptcy is right for you with a free one-on-one debt analysis with a bankruptcy attorney in Chicago.

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