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53% of Americans Too Afraid
to Check Bank Account Balance

By Brooke Vaughan // March 26th, 2021

Being afraid to face finances is not a foreign concept to many Americans. The bank fee and credit card interest industry is one of $200 billion annually. Monthly bills alone comprise upwards of $21,000 per U.S. household each year, according to a recent doxoINSIGHTS report, and Experian reports that the average person owes $90,460 in total debt. 

While people may appear to be swimming in bills, debts, expenses, and fees, they are in fact drowning. 

Consumers are the most stressed at the end of the month (39%), as well as the day before credit card payments (38.9%) and rent (37.91%) are due, according to a recent survey of more than 2,000 Americans. The survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Cushion, revealed that ATM fees (38%), overdraft fees (33%), foreign transaction fees (29%), and credit card interest charges (26%) are the most common bank-related penalties that induce stress. 

In the past year, Americans have been forced to double down on their finances by working harder to save (even in the most minute ways) and adjusting their spending to accommodate an ongoing global pandemic. While saving and adjusted spending are top priorities for many people right now, they first have to address the most pressing issue: acknowledging their account balances.

The Battle with Balances

More than 50% of Americans say that they have no idea how much money they have in their bank account at any given time because they’re too afraid to check. But even if bank account balances are out of sight, they are certainly not out of mind. According to the survey, 71.77% of people say they check their bank account balance three or more times per week, and nearly 60% say they feel a spike of anxiety before they do check it. 

After a year of layoffs, furloughs, pay reductions, medical bills, and emergency spending, that anxiety has only heightened for a number of people. Living through the pandemic has made 60.79% of people feel worse or much worse when checking their bank account balance. 

Much like bank account balances, credit card balances weigh heavily on consumers. In total, three out of four people worry sometimes (32.57%), often (26.78%), or constantly (14.61%) about being able to make the minimum payment on their credit card, explaining the one in three people who dread the day their credit card payments are due.  

TIP: Set up notifications on your checking account to alert you when your balance is low. To cut down on the worry of credit card minimum payments, try paying small amounts throughout the month to avoid a larger payment all at once.

Checking Account Woes

When it comes to bank fees, ATM fees, overdraft fees, foreign transaction fees, and interest charges cause the biggest headaches, with ATM fees taking the top spot. 

Although ATM fees only account for 2.5% of the fees that Cushion detects on users accounts, the burden is far greater for consumers. People lose $48.31 per year in ATM fees, and they’d go up to 16 minutes out of their way if it meant they could avoid a fee. 

TIP: To avoid or lessen ATM fees, visit your bank’s partner ATMs, use a fee-free ATM, or choose cash back when using debit cards at grocery and convenience stores.

Overdraft fees, on the other hand, account for more than half of the fees that Cushion detects on users’ accounts. Approximately 31% of people experience frequent close calls, according to the survey, where they don’t know whether or not they have enough money in their account to cover an upcoming expense. Those close calls end in overdraft fees one in three times.

TIP: To avoid overdraft fees, keep a close eye on your account balance and charges, sign up for low-balance notifications, or reassess your overdraft protection status. 

Want to find out how much you owe in bank fees? Check out our free fee scanner.

Anything to Save

With essential bills, debt, and bank fees, it’s no wonder that people would be willing to try just about anything to save a little extra money. Nearly 30% of people have called their service provider to argue over a bill; 36.76% have negotiated a fee or charge; 40.10% have asked for or demanded a discount; and 37.76% have switched service providers entirely.

When negotiations fail, some consumers have learned that it could pay off to reevaluate their personal and spending habits. Three out of four people would be willing to go out of their way some or all of the time if that meant they didn’t have to pay a toll, fee, or surcharge. For 50% of people, COVID-19 has made them more willing to go out of their way to avoid fees than they were before.  

TIP: Spending less money — or reducing waste — is one of the most effective ways to improve your financial situation. This could mean negotiating down your internet bill, monitoring your electricity bill to see where you could save, or adjusting your overdraft protection to better align with your spending habits.

The Solution

Unfortunately, there is no cut-and-dried solution to taking control of your finances. Like most things, each individual’s financial situation is dependent on a number of factors, including but not limited to their expenses and spending habits. 

The first step to overcoming fear related to finances is starting, whether that means analyzing your bank account history to create a budget or finding little ways to save money across your bills.  

“People tend to shy away from negotiating bills and fees because it can be time-consuming and exhausting,” says Cushion founder and CEO, Paul Kesserwani. “As a result, they leave money on the table. Most things are negotiable. Banks, retailers, and billers would rather give you money back than lose you as a customer altogether.”

Cushion helps you waste less money, save more, and live a financially healthier life. We monitor your bank and credit card accounts 24/7, find and alert you about pesky fees, let you know which fees are negotiable, which banks are cooperative, and can even automatically negotiate on your behalf.* To date, Cushion has secured customers more than $11 million in bank and credit card fee refunds—and we’re just getting started.

*Cushion only negotiates fees with high refund odds. We cannot guarantee any negotiations, a regular frequency of negotiations, or fee refunds—your bank makes the final call.