I spent the first eight years of my career working for a very large bank, and I know that people have a love/hate relationship with large banks. However, I can say for the most part, they really do provide us with great services. After all, where else would we keep our money and how would we pay our bills? Most banks have made great strides in technology, too, that have given us a great deal of convenience and save us time and money. So, while I think that banks provide us with value, I don't think that we should feel obligated to pay every fee that they require of us.
1. Non-bank ATM fees
I think that this fee was more relevant years ago before ATM technology advanced to where it is today. Part of this fee was based on the fact that each bank takes a "risk" that you have the funds in your account, which the ATM will disperse as well as the reclamation of those funds from your current bank. With both ATM and bank technology today, there should not be any risk or fee as large as $3 to cover this type of transaction.
You have control over the ATM you choose, so you should choose appropriately; however, if you cannot avoid using another bank's ATM, you should dispute the charge that your bank will charge you for using the other one. It's bad enough that the other bank charged you for it, at least they took the "risk" all your bank had to do was shift money around at the Fed. Definitely not worth your $2 or $3.
2. Overdraft Fees
This is a fee that is easily controllable from your perspective. Most banks now offer free mobile or email alerts that will let you know when your account falls below a certain level. You need to make sure that you are signed up for these alerts and that you set the level high enough to avoid any late cashed checks from causing problems. In addition, many banks also allow you to cover your overdraft fees from a credit card. It is not an ideal situation to run up your credit card bill; however, it is much better than a $35 overdraft fee that you can be charged.
If you are not signed up for these protections and you have an overdraft situation in your account, you should call the bank and ask them to refund the fee, especially if you are a first time "offender." Accidents happen and $35 is a large punishment for an accident. Most banks will refund you this fee and let you off with a warning. If you have this issue happen more than once, though, then you definitely need to make sure that you are signed up for the overdraft protections offered by your bank.
3. Wire Transfer Fees
Like the overdraft fee, this is another potentially costly fee that you could incur from the bank. In the bank's defense, it is more expensive to send money via Fed wires and those fees just trickle down. That being said, if you only sporadically send wires, then you should call your bank and ask for that fee to be reimbursed to your account.
If you transfer money more actively, then you should look into ACH or auto debit transactions. These are typically free within a certain monthly limit. In addition, your account is better protected with an ACH transaction as it can be reversed within a period of time after entering it, versus a wire transaction that would require the recipient to return funds to you.
4. Monthly Maintenance Fees
Most banks have various activities that you can complete to make sure that you are not charged a monthly maintenance fee and these can include direct deposit, use of your debit card or account balance minimums. For most people, the minimum requirements for the banks to offer free checking should not be difficult to accomplish. You should be aware of what those are for your particular bank.
If you see that you are being charged a monthly maintenance fee, then you need to call the bank and ask for the charge to be refunded. Sometimes you are doing all of the required activities; however, the bank is not tracking you properly. If you were not doing the activities, then the phone call would be a good opportunity for you to clarify what you need to do and make sure that you accomplish it going forward. Monthly maintenance fees can add up to $100s of dollars a year if you don't monitor your account regularly.
No matter what bank you are using, you should make it a practice to monitor your online bank checking account, at least monthly, for fees that they may charge you. And if you have a fee hit your account, immediately call the bank and ask them to remove it. More often then not, they will refund the fee; however, they would not initiate the refund unless you made the phone call. If you are concerned that you may not have the type of leverage to reach out to the bank, check out my post on your value to the bank. No matter how much business you have at the bank, you provide value to them and should not always have to pay fees when they say you do.