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How do I avoid checking account fees?

No one wants to shell out overdraft, ATM and maintenance fees for their checking account.

Look closely at your last few bank statements. Have you paid out more in extra charges recently? Even if it's $10, that's $10 too much.

Here are six ways to avoid checking account fees.

1. Pay attention to minimum balance requirements.

The most common checking account fees are maintenance fees. Maintaining the minimum monthly balance requirements is an easy way to avoid this fee — or by finding a bank that doesn't have a minimum balance requirement, like Ally Bank.

At some banks, minimum balance requirements apply to the combined total deposits of all your accounts at that financial institution. Revisit the terms at your bank.

2. Use direct deposit and automatic transfers.

We can't stress the effectiveness of automatic transfers enough. First, have your paycheck automatically deposited into your checking account.

Then, set up automatic recurring transfers to savings to ensure future you is covered.

Savings boosters , a feature of Ally Bank's Savings Account, include recurring transfers, which let you schedule on a timetable that makes sense for you.

3. Link your savings and checking accounts.

Opening a checking and savings account at the same bank makes it easy to move money to savings.

Even if your bank doesn't give you an incentive, consider opening and linking a  savings and a checking account  at Ally Bank, where you can get overdraft protection, too.

4. Be smart with your ATM and debit card.

You already know using an out-of-network ATM can cost you several dollars to get cash from your own account. You can avoid most ATM fees just by using your bank's ATMs — that's Allpoint® for Ally Bank Spending Account holders.

Note that Ally Bank reimburses fees charged by other banks' ATMs up to a certain amount.

5. Dig a little deeper to take advantage of special account features.

Do some homework on your checking account fees. As fees and rules vary significantly from bank to bank, so do perks and features.

6. Make a switch.

If your bank requires you to jump through too many hoops to avoid getting nickel-and-dimed, it might be time to break up. Look for a bank with simple, straightforward terms and excellent customer service.

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