4 Unfair Bank Fees That Will Drain Your Account

Woman using smart phone
Getty ImagesThe average overdraft fee at the 10 largest banks in the U.S. is about $35.

By Theresa Kim

In an ideal world, you would be exempt from all bank fees simply for maintaining a balance in your checking account. In reality, even the most responsible customer can incur costly fees at the bank.

Although most fees are a result of a consumer's limited understanding and lack of attention to detail, in some cases, they may be a result of something completely out of your control. In fact, most complaints filed against banks regard fees deemed unfair by customers -- as many fees are marked up exponentially and don't reflect the true cost of providing a certain service.

Here's a list of bank fees that are both unfair and costly. Keep these fees in mind to avoid being a victim of unfair charges.

1. Stop Payment Fee

Whether you want to place a hold on a payment or stop an erroneous check, a stop payment order is a quick and effective method to prevent a payment from processing -- but it comes at a cost.

The average stop payment fee is $32.40 at the 10 biggest banks in America, according to a MyBankTracker.com July analysis. The highest fee was $36 at SunTrust Bank, while the lowest was $25 at Chase.

This high fee may be worth it if a stop payment is necessary, but it will generally expire after a six-month period. Many banking customers fail to realize this, and the stopped payment goes through. To prevent this from happening, a customer must actively renew the stop payment request before the expiration period, which will incur an additional fee.

2. Overdraft Fee

When your account balance is low, the last thing you need are extra fees, which is exactly what can happen.

%VIRTUAL-WSSCourseInline-638%Another July analysis of the 10 largest banks found the average overdraft fee charged for each transaction that resulted in a negative account balance was $35.20. Overdraft fees are one of the most expensive bank fees, but this isn't the only reason why they're a sore spot for many banking consumers.

For one, you will be assessed an overdraft fee for dropping even a couple cents below your balance, which means you'll have to pay roughly $36 for being short 2 cents.

There's also a gray area with overdraft fees that often confuses customers. Even if you deposit a check right before you overdraft, this will not guarantee that you won't be hit with an overdraft fee, thanks to a fund availability policy in the U.S.

If you don't realize you have a negative balance, you may continue spending money, which could result in multiple overdraft fees on a given day. All these extra fees may make it difficult to bring your account back to a positive. Sometimes, a bank will give you a limited amount of time following the initial overdraft to pay for the charges. If not, you will be charged an extended overdraft fee for keeping your account overdrawn for an extended period.

3. Deposit Item Returned Fee

When someone writes you a check, and that person doesn't have sufficient funds in his or her account, the check will bounce. Although this is not your fault, you will have to pay for this mistake (along with the person who issued you the check). You will be charged the deposit item returned fee, which is currently an average of $12.85.

4. Debit card replacement fee

It's bad enough you lost your debit card or someone ran off your information, but what's worse is that you may have to pay for your replacement card, especially if you want it rush delivered.

Thankfully, the average cost of getting a lost debit card replaced is only $1.75, and most banks offer this service for free when delivered through standard mail. Banks also won't charge you a fee if your card was stolen.

However, the delivery time of the replacement cards can vary greatly and take anywhere between three to 15 business days. Depending on your needs, this time frame may not be an option for you. If you needed to use expedited delivery, it can cost upward of $30.

The Silver Lining

Even the most unfair fee policies today are tamer versions of fees in the past -- when there was no limit on the amount you could be charged in a day for overdraft fees. To control these unfair practices and protect bank customers from inflated charges, federal regulators are continuing to implement new rules until both bank and customer can find a happy balance.

Theresa Kim is a research analyst and writer for MyBankTracker.com, where she covers banking and personal finance.