In 2020, it’s estimated that Americans spent a total of $11.6 billion on bank account fees. Shocking, right? And the worst part of it is, many of those fees were paid unnecessarily.

Do you really want to be lining the pockets of your bank when you could be lining your own instead? If you do the work to become a competent money manager with your personal finances, you’ll be laughing all the way to the, well, bank. Increase your knowledge, and you’ll increase your account balances.

Read on to learn how to bank smarter with these clever but straightforward bank account tips.

1. Know What’s Happening With Your Accounts

First up, you need to be aware of everything that’s happening with your accounts.

What fees does your bank account take each month? Are there fees on certain transactions? And what’s the interest rate on your balances?

Banking account fees might seem minuscule when looked at individually, but over numerous accounts and over time, they add up quickly.

You also want to keep an eye on your account for instances of fraud. Since the invention of the internet, online fraud has been an increasing issue. This has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which threw people into dire financial situations.

If you see unusual activity in your accounts, report it to your bank immediately–even if it’s just a few dollars.

2. Get Those Fees Down

Speaking of fees, did you know there are ways to ensure they stay low or even get rid of them completely. Sure, it’s not going to make you a millionaire, but it will help your bottom line over time. And paying that much attention to your account balances is good habit building, too.

There are a few different ways to eliminate fees:

  • Ask to lower your requirement to avoid minimum balance fees
  • Use your bank’s ATMs–they’re usually fee-free
  • Sign up for alerts, so you know if you’re approaching a low balance to avoid insufficient funds fees
  • Schedule payments to avoid missing debt payment dates
  • Negotiate with your bank to remove fees you deem unnecessary

You can even get refunds on specific costs. For example, some companies help you chase overdraft fees on your spending account.

3. Cash Your Loose Change

You’ve likely got a huge jar full of loose change in your house. What were you planning to do with it? Instead of just adding to it indefinitely, why not put it in the bank and get some interest on that cash.

You could use the money counting machines at the supermarket, but they’ll take a cut of your savings. (Though you can choose to turn them into gift cards.) So instead., head to your local credit union and count those coins for free.

Then trot along to your bank and deposit the money into your savings account. If you have a family, this is a fun activity to do with kids while teaching them good money habits at the same time.

4. Take Advantage of Remote Pay Services

Research shows that more than 80 percent of Americans prefer to bank digitally. It’s fast and convenient.

Pretty much every US bank offers no-fee remote paying services, so take advantage of this. You can check your accounts, make payments to creditors, set up automatic payments for bills, and so much more via smartphone or computer.

And now, with Apple Pay and other payment services, you can use your bank account to pay for items with a simple scan or swipe!

If you’re not sure how to access your bank’s online services, just give them a call. They’ll be happy to walk you through whatever system they have available.

5. Look For Sign-Up Bonuses

Are you opening a new account? Shop around and see what sign-up bonuses the banks near you are offering.

To do this, you usually need to:

  • Open an account within specific dates
  • Maintain a stated balance for a specified time
  • Take part in qualifying transactions

If you think it’s just a gimmick, think again. The banking industry is competitive, and banks are always trying to outdo one another. This is one of those banking tips that can result in tangible benefits.

Choose wisely and read the fine print, and you can end up with a decent amount of money for simply opening an account, which you needed to do anyway.

6. Set Up Split Direct Deposits

Are you struggling to save money? Ask your employer if they’d be willing to split your salary payments before they even hit your spending account. Most mid-sized to large businesses with accounting departments are happy and even used to doing this for employees.

Consider the following banking tips:

  • Maximize your Roth IRA with two-weekly or monthly direct deposits
  • Have a percentage sent to a vacation account
  • Get a certain amount put into a long-term savings account
  • Have funds put into your low-risk investment accounts

Your company’s accountant will request the routing number and account number for each account and a list of the payment percentages or amounts.

7. Link Your Accounts

If you haven’t done this already, go on and link all your bank accounts.

If you have your accounts all with the same bank, this is already done for you. You should be able to see every account listed on your bank’s online dashboard. Usually, you can quickly transfer between accounts for free.

If you have accounts across multiple banks, you can use a financial app to manage them. These apps are designed to help you manage your budget, savings, and investments more conveniently and precisely. In this way, you can also easily link to and manage other money transfer services like PayPal or TransferWise.

Just bear in mind that using third-party services comes with risks, albeit small.

Help Yourself to Manage Your Bank Account

Remember, banks typically don’t look out for their customers. It might seem like it when they offer tempting sign-up bonuses or discounted fees and rates, but those might not last. So check your bank account balances, prices, and fine print regularly, and don’t be afraid to negotiate or even switch banks when you see better offers.

For more advice on crafting greater financial freedom, browse the other articles on our blog.