Consumer Alert: Married to your bank. It’s OK to cheat. Here’s why

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A few weeks ago I encouraged you to consider getting a divorce, not from your spouse, from your bank!

I’ve done more research and I’m modifying that position a bit. If your bank is charging high fees, a divorce may be necessary. But some banks that have those fees have created policies that allow you to more easily avoid them so you can stay happily married. And according to an expert with Bankrate, if like some of the perks at your bank and some at another, perhaps infidelity is better than divorcing your bank altogether.

Capital One is the first big bank in the country to ditch overdraft fees. That’s significant. Those fees are usually 35 bucks a pop.

Let’s say there’s not enough money for your $350 car payment. That same day, you buy a $5 cup of coffee on your way to work. You pick up lunch. That’s 10 bucks. And you stop at the grocery store on your way home to buy a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk for seven bucks. Your bank will charge you $35 for each transaction.

Now your car payment costs you $385. That’s a $40 cup of coffee, a $45 lunch, and that milk and bread costs a lot of bread: $42.

But while big banks are not following Capital One’s lead, they are making some consumer-friendly modifications.

"They provide you basically a buffer,” explained Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst at Bankrate. “If you overdraw the account by15, 20 bucks sometimes as much as 50 bucks they won’t charge you the fee."

For example, JP Morgan Chase is charging no overdraft fee up to $50.

"The other is they give you a period of time to bring the account back to positive before the fee gets charged,” McBride said.

And that’s important information to know, especially for the young. According to a new Bankrate study, Generation Z, 18-to-25-year-olds, and millennials, aged 26 to 41, are spending three times more in monthly fees – everything from overdraft charges to ATM fees. And all those charges are avoidable. Also avoidable is that pesky monthly maintenance fee.

"What we’re seeing is nearly half of banks offer a non-interest-free checking account. So often it’s not as much a matter of switching banks, it’s a matter of switching accounts. See if they have free checking. If they don’t, there are plenty of other fish in the sea," McBride advised.

"This is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s not that you have to have all of your accounts and all of your money at one bank or the other. You may choose to have your checking account with the local credit union and your savings account with an online bank where you can get a higher rate of return and just link the two and you can easily move money back and forth."

I loved my discussion with that fella because he made me look at my relationship with my bank completely differently, just like a good marriage counselor should. Click here for the list of banks that earned Bankrate’s top award.

With the help of Bankrate, here’s Deanna’s Do List for switching banks.

  • Shop around: You know what’s best for you, so look for financial institutions that suit your needs. Remember, you’re the consumer. You have the power to choose what you want. Review the best checking accounts, savings accounts as well as Bankrate’s bank reviews to find what’s ideal for you.
  • Look for a sign-up bonus: Yep. That’s a real thing. Banks will pay you cash for your business.
  • Keep your existing account and add another one: Yes, you can stay married to that bank you’ve been with since your first job as long as you aren’t paying fees. Consider adding another account and moving a portion of your money to it to get the features you want.