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.
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What Is a Monthly Maintenance Fee?
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.
Why Do Banks Charge Monthly Fees?
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.
Alternate Names for Monthly Maintenance Fees
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:
- Maintenance fees or charges
- Service fees or charges
- Customer service fees or charges
How Do You Avoid Monthly Maintenance Fees?
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:
- Make a qualifying direct deposit of at least $500 each month, or
- Maintain a minimum daily balance of $1,500, or
- Keep an average combined balance in linked accounts of $5,000 at the start of each day
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
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:
- Make qualifying direct deposits of at least $100 each month in your Bank of America account, or
- Maintain a minimum daily balance starting between $100–$5,000, or
- Keep a combined balance in linked Bank of America accounts between $10,000–$15,000 each statement cycle, or
- Are enrolled in the Preferred Rewards program at Bank of America, or
- Meet a certain age limit
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:
- Maintain a minimum daily balance of $500 each month, or
- Make a qualifying direct deposit starting between $500–$1,000, or
- Meet a qualifying combined deposit balance, or
- Have linked your account to other qualifying accounts, or
- Meet a certain age limit
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:
- Make qualifying direct deposits of at least $1,000 each month, or
- Maintain an average account balance of at least $1,500, or
- Also have an open US Bank personal loan, line of credit, or credit card, or
- Maintain a certain amount in combined personal deposits or credit balances, or have a personal trust relationship with US Bank Wealth Management, or
- Meet a certain age limit
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:
- Make qualifying direct deposits of at least $5,000 each month, or
- Maintain a minimum daily balance starting between $100–$2,500, or
- Keep a combined balance of $25,000 across eligible accounts, or
- Meet a certain age limit
Read more about TD Bank’s monthly maintenance fee waiver policy here.
Can You Get a Monthly Maintenance Fee Waived By Calling Your Bank?
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.
How can Cushion help me?
Cushion Bill Pay gives you more visibility and control over your finances than ever before. Many people get hit with bank fees—such as overdrafts and late fees—due to cash flow problems. With Cushion, you can consolidate and track all of your bills and BNPL payments in one place, plan your budget by reviewing what’s coming down the pike, and avoid overdraft fees by temporarily pausing payments that might overdraft your account and resuming them when you are ready.
How to Negotiate a Monthly Maintenance Fee Refund
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.
Prepare for the negotiation
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:
- Name on the account
- Social security number
- Account number
- Fees that you’d like waived
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.”
Present your points of leverage
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:
- I typically meet the minimum balance to have this fee waived, but I am currently in a tough position due to COVID-19.
- As a loyal customer who has banked with the institution for an extended period of time, I’d like to see what you can do for me.
- I have multiple accounts with the bank, such as a savings account, business account, or another personal checking account.
Be polite, persistent, and prepared to not get a refund every time
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.