There’s no shortage of irritating bank and credit card fees. Overdraft fees always seem to kick you when you’re down. Late fees are a minor inconvenience that could cause considerable damage to your personal finance situation if left unhandled. Then you have to worry about ATM fees, which are not so expensive in the grand scheme of things but an irritant nonetheless. But one of the more frustrating, and confusing, fees is the one that dings your bank account just for existing — the monthly maintenance fee.
When you signed up for a checking account at your financial institution, you were likely hoping for a safe place to store your money, somewhere you could easily make debit card purchases, a bill payment, or have access to online banking and other financial services. However, traditional banks, and even online banks, operate on human power. Those humans have to maintain your account, as well as any other perks associated with your account — enter maintenance fees.
Some banks charge monthly fees to keep a checking or savings account open with them. These monthly fees can often be waived automatically if you meet certain criteria established by your bank. Criteria can include setting up direct deposit or keeping a minimum amount in the account.
Monthly maintenance fees typically range from $1–$30 depending on the institution, and you will be charged one upon account opening. Cushion has analyzed more than $13 billion worth of consumer transactions, and these fees most frequently come in at $5 or $12.
That means if you consistently pay monthly maintenance fees, you’ll spend between $60–$144 each year, and possibly more.
Not all banks charge a monthly fee. Monthly maintenance fees charged by banks cover any costs associated with maintaining your account. These can include operating costs and add-ons, such as overdraft protection, out-of-network ATM coverage, early direct deposit, and other perks.
Different banks refer to these monthly fees by different names, so be sure to know what you’re looking for on your banking statement. Your financial institution may refer to them as:
Luckily, there are a few ways to avoid monthly fees. Depending on the institution and the type of account you have there, your bank may automatically waive the monthly service fee if you meet any one or more criteria. These criteria typically include a minimum balance requirement, making regular deposits to the account, being enrolled in rewards programs, or connecting other accounts at the same bank and keeping a minimum balance in those as well.
Cushion has found that the top U.S. banks that charge monthly maintenance fees are: Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, US Bank, and TD Bank.
According to the banks’ respective websites, each have different requirements for how to avoid a monthly maintenance fee.
Chase Total Checking® charges a $12 maintenance fee each month, but will waive the fee if you:
Qualifying linked bank accounts at Chase include some checking and savings accounts, CDs, and money market accounts.
Read more about Chase’s monthly maintenance fee waiver policy here.
Bank of America has a variety of checking accounts. Each Bank of America account will charge a monthly maintenance fee between $4.95–$25. Depending on the checking account, Bank of America could waive the fee if you:
Qualifying linked bank accounts at Bank of America include some savings accounts, CDs, and money market accounts, and IRAs.
Read more about Bank of America monthly maintenance fee waiver policy here.
Wells Fargo’s various checking accounts charge monthly maintenance fees between $5–$30. Depending on the checking account, Wells Fargo could waive the fee if you:
Qualifying linked bank accounts at Wells Fargo include some checking accounts and savings accounts.
Read more about Wells Fargo’s monthly maintenance fee waiver policy here.
US Bank’s various checking accounts charge monthly maintenance fees between $4.95–$24.95. Depending on the checking account, US Bank could waive the fee if you:
Read more about US Bank’s monthly maintenance fee waiver policy here.
TD Bank’s various checking accounts charge monthly maintenance fees between $5.99–$25. Depending on the bank account, TD Bank could waive the fee if you:
Read more about TD Bank’s monthly maintenance fee waiver policy here.
There’s no harm in trying. In fact, given the financial stress many American households are currently facing and the FDIC‘s response to pandemic-related concerns, many large financial institutions may be more willing to waive charges. Fees you might have luck getting back include monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees, savings account fees, credit card interest charges, and other fees.
Unfortunately, financial institutions may be more willing to waive an overdraft fee or an ATM fee than a monthly maintenance fee. Some account fees, such as monthly maintenance fees or credit card annual fees, are baked into the deal when you sign your contract. This can make them more difficult to get waived.
Take Bank of America, for instance. Advantage Relationship Banking monthly maintenance fees only get waived if you make direct deposits, are enrolled in their preferred rewards program, meet a certain age limit, or maintain a minimum daily or combined balance in other Bank of America accounts such as a checking, savings, or money market account. In its fee guide, the bank explicitly states these criteria.
In most cases, your bank will not automatically waive your monthly service fee unless you meet the criteria. It is up to you to contact them and see what your options are.
If you’re unable to avoid bank fees like monthly charges by meeting the criteria, you can negotiate a refund. Monthly maintenance fee refunds are not a given, but there are a few things that you can do to increase your odds of getting one.
You should have all of the necessary information ready before reaching out to your bank so that the call will go as smoothly as possible:
Introduce yourself, and explain why you are calling. Use this script if you’d like: “Hello. My name is [your name], and I’m contacting you with regard to the recent maintenance fee charged to my account.”
If you’ve been charged the fee but believe you’ve met one or more of the criteria that should have triggered the waiver, kindly tell the customer service representative that you think there’s been a mistake.
In instances where you’ve been charged the fee and have not met any of the criteria but would like to try to have it waived, you can try leveraging one of these arguments:
It’s important to remain calm and kind even if things are not going your way. Remember that the person that you are speaking with on the phone likely didn’t write the rules on refunds. Be polite, and remind them of your value as a customer.
You can be kind and persistent at the same time. If things are not going your way, politely ask to speak with higher level management at the branch. Sometimes the representatives on the phone do not have the authority to grant refunds, but a supervisor or manager might be able to waive fees. Whether or not you get the refund can also depend on the representative that you get ahold of. Try calling back a few days later to speak with someone new and let them know about your situation. You might have more luck the next time around.
If the customer service representative is not budging, you might have to count this one as a loss. Not every negotiation will end with a win. You might only get a partial refund or no refund at all. Try not to get discouraged. Instead, focus on what you can do to avoid the monthly fee next time around.
Cushion’s ⚛️ Fee Genius scans your accounts regularly, catches pesky fees, figures out what is negotiable, and more to help you get your personal finance situation in order. We provide account holders with all of the “what” behind fee negotiation so you only have to figure out the “how” of negotiating your fees.
And if you want Cushion to negotiate your fees for you, well we’re sort of geniuses at that too. To date, we’ve refunded our customers more than $13 million in bank and credit card fees. If you’d like to opt into our Fee Negotiation add-on, just flip the switch during sign-up or in the Profile tab of your dashboard.
Please note: If you are opted into Cushion’s 💭 Fee Negotiation add-on and contact your bank to negotiate fees while we have an open negotiation, Cushion will still take a commission on any successful negotiations. We cannot track external communication between you and your financial institution, so our system will automatically take credit for any refunds. If you have any questions about which fees are included in your active negotiation, please reference your Cushion dashboard.
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.