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How to Avoid Monthly Maintenance Fees

By Brooke Vaughan // November 18, 2020

How to avoid monthly maintenance fees

There’s no shortage of irritating bank and credit card fees. There are overdraft fees, the ones that always seem to kick you when you’re down. There are late fees, 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, and those humans have to maintain your account, as well as any other perks associated with your account.

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, such as 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, including 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:

  • Monthly maintenance fees or charges
  • Monthly service fees or charges
  • Monthly 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, per user, 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 Bank logo

Chase

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 maintain 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 maintain 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

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

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

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 maintain 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 like monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees, savings account fees, credit card interest charges, and other fees during this difficult time.

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, which can make them more difficult to get waived.

For instance, Bank of America’s monthly maintenance fee on Advantage Relationship Banking accounts only gets 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 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
  • Address
  • Social security number
  • Account number
  • Fees that you’d like waived

Start strong

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.

If 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.
  • I am a loyal customer who has banked with the institution for an extended period of time.
  • 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.

Try Cushion

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 $11 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.