spending

Pay Less for Banking & Loans

Seven ideas to keep more in your bank account.

1. Bye-Bye, Late Fees: Millions pay credit-card late fees of as much as $39 each month. Use an automatic debit to make payments and you'll never be late again.

Annual Savings: $234(eliminating six late fees a year )

2. Wipe Out Interest: The average household has $7,430 in credit-card debt. But let’s assume you have just half that. Take advantage of a 12-month 0% balance-transfer offer from Bank of America or Discover.

Annual Savings: $422(on a rate of 13.6%)

3. Stay in-Network, Nix ATM Charges: Each time you use an out-of-network ATM, you pay an average of $3.43. Avoid charges by selecting a bank like Citibank, with more than 23,000 fee-free ATMs.

Annual Savings: $178(based on one fewer out-of-network ATM withdrawal per week)

4. Get Free Checking No Minimum? No Matter: Brick-and-mortar banks charge an average fee of $12 per month for checking accounts and require an average minimum balance of almost $3,500 to avoid it. If you use direct deposit or make five or more debit-card purchases each month, Chase offers a free account with no minimum balance required. Or bank online at Salem Five Bank, pay no monthly fees, and earn 2.75%.

Annual Savings: $144

5. Use Cash-Back Cards Savings Really Add Up: Tired of accruing airline miles that you can never redeem? Switch to a cash-back credit card and earn enough in a year to pay for a coast-to-coast ticket. If you spend $850 a month for 12 months using Blue Cash from American Express, you could see a $250 credit on your bill at the end of the period. Even charging $550 a month on basics such as groceries, gas and drugstore purchases can put money in your pocket.

Annual Savings: $250

6. Bounce No More Sign Up for Free Alerts: The average bounced-check fee has increased 34% over the past ten years and is now $29, according to Bankrate.com. If you never balance your checkbook, sign up for your bank's free alerts to warn you if your balance drops to the preset amount of your choice. Need a safety net? You can get overdraft protection. Just be sure you know how much you're paying for it.

Annual Savings: $174(six fewer overdrafts per year)

7. Refinance a Mortgage: Monthly mortgage payments take up the lion's share of most household budgets, so refinancing can produce substantial savings. With the interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan at less than 5.5%, now is a good time to refinance.

Slashing your rate from 6.75% to 5.25% on a 30-year loan will save you 17% on your monthly payment. On a $200,000 mortgage, that translates into a savings of almost $193 per month.

Annual Savings: $2,313(refinancing a $200,000 mortgage)

For your own situation, use the How much will my payment be? calculator at Kiplinger.com. Of course, for a refi to pay off, you must stay in the house long enough to recoup any closing costs, which typically amount to 2% to 4% of the loan.

TOTAL ANNUAL BANKING SAVINGS: $3,715

Slideshow: Top Savings Tips for 2009Save $50 a DayPay Less for Banking & LoansPay Less for Health and Insurance CostsPay Less for UtilitiesPay Less for FoodPay Less for TransportationPay Less for Investing CostsPay Less for LeisurePay Less for Must-Have TrendsPLUS: How These Super Savers Do It

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