WSVN — One of the most important accounts you have is a checking account, but how much are you paying to have that service? Lynn Martinez shares some tips to avoid hidden bank fees in tonight’s Dollars and Sense.

There are more than 100 million active checking accounts in the country today.

Ken Thomas: “That’s how you make your payments. That’s how you pay your bills, and it’s very important to get the right bank for each of your accounts.”

Ken Thomas is an independent bank consultant. After working in finance for more than 40 years, he knows a thing or two about fees.

Ken Thomas: “We’re actually seeing more and more fees simply because banking has gotten very competitive, and there are a lot of new regulations which are costing banks a lot of money.”

Recent studies show the banking industry earned nearly $32 million in overdraft fees alone last year.

Ken Thomas: “These fees could literally wipe out a small account.”

Some of the most common fees associated with checking accounts are:

– overdraft fees

– fees for writing too many checks

– fees for not maintaining a set balance

And some banks even charge you a fee for going inside to do business.

Ken Thomas: “These fees can be waived if you go to the bank and you show them you’re a longtime, loyal customer.”

Banks are also required to disclose their fee schedule, so make sure you read it thoroughly, and ask questions before signing on. Like the hotel and restaurant industry, read the reviews before signing on with a bank.

Ken also suggests sticking with a local bank, so it’s easier to communicate with them if there is a problem.

Ken Thomas: “We have a lot of very good community banks here in South Florida. These are banks that are not as big as these out-of-state giants, but they are locally based. Their president lives here.”

And don’t expect to see these fees disappear anytime soon.

Ken Thomas: “I expect fees to definitely get worse.”

For more information about Ken’s findings on these fees, log on to:

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