There’s no point in paying for something if you don’t have to. Common sense, yes, but many times, we overlook subtle hits to the wallet and shrug them off as just a matter of doing business. It doesn’t have to be that way. We dig into four things you should never pay for.
Your credit report
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re entitled to free credit reports every 12 months from each of the three main credit monitoring bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Request copies from the bureaus’ official website or call 1-877-322-8228. You’ll need your name, address, birth date and Social Security number. It’s good practice to review each of the reports and check for errors.
Beware scammers, the Federal Trade Commission warns. Annualcreditreport.com is the only website authorized to fill orders for the free credit reports you have the right to by law. Other sites might try to charge you for your credit reports or tack on unwanted services – or worse, steal your personal information.
Looking to score your credit score for free? Start by checking with your bank or credit card issuer. Some will provide free scores to customers. If not, legitimate websites such as Credit.com and Creditkarma.com will provide credit scores to registered users. Registration is free, but you might get hit with marketing pitches for paid products and services.
Sometimes you need a little green to get you through your day, and that means a stop at an ATM. But what about those costly surcharges? According to Bankrate.com, you’re paying $4.52, on average, for an out-of-network ATM withdrawal.
There are workarounds to those pesky fees. Of course, the easiest solution is to only use your own bank’s ATMs. Most banks’ smartphone apps will locate the nearest ATM for you. Many big banks including PNC Bank and TD Bank offer premium accounts that will reimburse accountholders for out-of-network ATM fees. Yet another option? Online banks and credit unions. Ally Bank’s interest checking, for example, will refund $10 in out-of-network ATM charges per month. Alliant Credit Union refunds up to $20 a month in out-of-network fees. To find other banks and credit unions that refund ATM fees, check Kasasa.com.
Your checking account
Admit it: You’re old-school and still, occasionally at least, write a check or two to pay bills or stuff in graduation cards. And that same old school taught you that you shouldn’t be charged for your checking account – and heck, you should get free checks, too.
You’ll have to wade through the rules. A Bankrate survey found that just 37% of banks offer free checking with no strings attached. Capitol One 360 Checking, which is a mostly online and mobile account, boasts no hidden fees or minimums, and you get your first checkbook for free. Ally Bank offers free standard checks on top of no monthly service fees with its online interest checking account.
The majority of banks, however, offer free checking with strings. Wells Fargo, for example, has three levels of checking accounts where fees are waived if you meet minimum requirements. For the basic Wells Fargo account, you can avoid the $10 monthly fee by direct-depositing at least $500 a month, maintaining a minimum balance of $1,500 or making 10 debit card purchases or payments.
Foreign transaction fees
Traveling abroad this summer? Check your credit card policies. If you charge purchases in other countries, you may see a foreign transaction fee added to your monthly bill that’s often equal to 3% of the charge amount.
The surest way to avoid this fee is to use a credit card that doesn’t tack on extra for foreign transactions. In Kiplinger’s recent rankings of the best rewards credit cards, we noted two great travel rewards cards that have no annual fees and charge no foreign transaction fees: the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card and the Discover It Miles card. The Capital One Quicksilver card is a good option for travelers who want to earn cash-back. There’s no annual fee or foreign transaction fees, and the card pays 1.5% on all purchases.