Avoiding College Financial Fees

As a college student, every little penny counts. No matter how you cut it—between tuition, room and board, books, parking, and everything else you have to pay for—college is expensive. Could saving money help your college experience?

Avoiding ATM fees, savings account fees, overdraft fees, and even fees that are associated with your financial aid refunds are just a few ways you can keep more of your money in your pocket. Take these suggestions into consideration:

1. Avoid ATM fees by doing research in your college town. If your current financial institution does not have a branch or ATM in your new town, it may be smarter to open a new account in your college town. Most financial institutions will offer student accounts or “earn your way free” accounts where no fee is associated.

2. Look for institutions that offer free electronic transfers. These can be a huge convenience for parents who need a quick and easy way to transfer money to you. According to bankrate.com, in their 2014 Bankrate Checking Survey, ATM surcharges increased by 6.5 percent to $2.77. The ATM charge, plus your bank’s fee for using an external ATM could total $5.00 or more. Those fees could add up rather quickly if you are not careful.

3. Avoid using your savings account like a checking account. Most financial institutions offer competitive interest bearing savings accounts, which are very beneficial to college students. However, most financial institutions also have a limit on withdraws per month, quarter, or year. If you exceed these limits, a charge is issued. There is really no limit to the amount financial institutions can charge you for exceeding your limits. If you are planning to make several withdrawals from your savings account, you may find it in your favor to open a checking account for your frequent purchases or withdraws while using your savings account for the original purpose of saving.

4. Beware of debit cards issued from colleges and universities for use with financial aid. Some colleges and universities use school issued debit cards to issue refunds. These debit card companies, along with the college or university, gain lots of fees from college students. Most card companies charge you per ATM withdraw, per point of sale swipe, and per cash advance. These fees alone can eat up a large percentage of your financial aid refund, including your student loan dollars. There are a few ways you can avoid these fees on your refunds. You can opt in for a direct deposit into your checking account, or you could request a good old-fashioned paper check.

5. Take steps not to overdraft your account. Overdraft fees eat up a lot of dollars you could be spending elsewhere. In fact, overdraft fees can range from $25–$50. You can avoid these fees by staying organized and in the know about your finances. Technology is a huge way to stay on top of your spending. Set up text and email alerts to help you keep tabs on your funds. In addition to mobile alerts, there are hundreds of financial tracking apps available for most smartphones.

Take charge of your finances today. Becoming a great money manager will not only help you save money during college, but will prepare you for a lifetime of financial well-being.

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