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Start Here: “The Ultimate Guide to Asking for a Raise and Negotiate Your Salary”

Here’s how I negotiated out of bank fees

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Have you ever had a teacher or adult who is supposed to be really good at something, but they haven’t actually done it in so long that you wonder whether they even remember how to do it? I had a CS professor at Stanford who is supposedly one of the best hackers of all time, but when I was stuck on some assignment, his advice was “Just look at it–harness the power of C.”

HEY THANKS FOR NOTHING, JACKASS. GOD YOU ARE SO USELESS!!! I’m not convinced that this renowned CS professor actually remembered how to program anymore.

Anyway, I give a lot of advice but sometimes it’s nice to actually get out there and do it. And just this week, I got the chance.

I previously wrote about how to get your banks to waive certain fees, like overdrafts and stop payments (original article: Step #2 To Getting Rich: Banking)

This week, I deposited 2 separate checks. Unfortunately, the companies had put stop payments on them. (If you write someone a check, then realize it was a mistake or you don’t want to pay them, you can issue a stop payment and the check won’t clear in their account; in other words, they won’t get the money.) Why did the companies put stop payments on my checks? The reasons are complicated, but suffice it to say that I knew the checks wouldn’t clear only after I deposited them.

Not surprisingly, a couple of days later, I got a notice from my bank indicating that they were going to charge me $7.00 for each check for “processing fees.” What this actually means is that they rubber-stamp each check and mail them back to you. Why they think I care about getting a returned check in the mail, I don’t know. And hopefully you also find it absurd to pay for someone else stopping a check (it’s not my mistake). So a couple days later, this is what I received in the mail: one of the canceled checks that they wanted me to pay $7.00 each for (click to enlarge):

checksmall.jpg

And here’s the statement I got in the mail for one of the checks (click to enlarge):
statementsmall.jpg

$14.00 in fees for some returned checks? Yeah, right.

Remember that $14.00 would basically wipe out my interest for the year. So I called Wells Fargo up and had a nice little chat with them. They’re actually very friendly on the phone. I pointed out that they had charged me a processing fee for a returned check and said, “I’d like to have that removed.”

That’s it!

She said, “Of course. Let me just make a note in your file.” And she removed the first one just like that.

The second one was a little trickier. After removing the first one, she said, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” And I pointed out the second charge and asked to have it removed. At this point, she was very hesitant to remove it. She said “We ordinarily don’t remove more than 1 processing fee per 3 months,” which is why you see I wrote down “3 months” on my statement.

But I pointed out that they had removed a $20.00 overdraft fee a while ago, and this would only be $14.00–the only difference was that this would be 2 charges as opposed to 1 larger one. She asked if she could put me on hold and check with her supervisor, which she did and then came back. “Ok, we can do that for you. Here you go!”

And my charges were refunded. I was polite and friendly on the phone, but also direct. Remember, with a customer-acquisition cost of over $350, banks want to keep you as their customer.

Next time you see any fees levied on your account, make the call.

Want to learn more ways to save money — quickly?

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41 Comments on "Here’s how I negotiated out of bank fees"

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Mike
Mike
11 years 4 months ago

great article

Neville Medhora
11 years 4 months ago

Ramit,

Your ability to pay less for stuff (especially errant fees) and haggle down prices was not developed because of a superior education or your respect for a dollar.

It was given to you at birth. You’re Indian. We all have that haggling gene that doesn’t allow us to pay full price!

-Nev

Anthony Avila
Anthony Avila
10 years 5 months ago
I talked my way out of $150 of finance charges and late fee payments. It was stupid on my part, but I was getting my credit card bill sent to an address where no one was living- hence I wasn’t unaware that I owed on my credit card. So I heard nothing from them until I woke up to a phone call of a woman saying I had to pay $143 that day or my account would be closed. I paid it and waited for my account to get out of delinquency. After 2 weeks of sleepless nights, I called,… Read more »
Ricemutt
10 years 3 months ago

Great post, but the part I loved most was your comment about your CS teacher, which had me laughing out loud. That was the reaction I had to nearly all the CS and phys teachers I had at Caltech!

Frank
10 years 3 months ago
I called Washington Mutual and politely requested they remove a couple ATM withdrawal fees because I didn’t know I had to have “Wamu free checking” for the free withdrawals they advertised (apparently the free checking I had at Wamu wasn’t “Wamu free checking” and had to upgrade). The customer service agent wouldn’t budge and so I spoke to his supervisor and she wouldn’t budge. They both told me they only remove charges if they’re bank errors. This is for $6. I understand when it comes down to it, it’s “my fault” for incurring the charges, but compared to everyones success… Read more »
Tom
Tom
10 years 2 months ago
I was with First Chicago, which became Bank One, which became Chase. In the last year I have begun to notice $7 charges when my account would be low and a check would kick in to my check protection credit line. I called them and asked them to waive these fees as I am pretty sure I never got them before. I hinted I may take my business somewhere else. They simply told me no they cant do that. Ive been thinking of switching to WaMu but maybe their all like this. Chase has ATMs on every corner in Chicago,… Read more »
mark
mark
10 years 1 month ago

i used to bank with well fargo. i set up an account that they told me was free of account charges. when i started getting charged $8 every month, i called to fix the problem. they did, althought wells fargo charges you $2 to call and talk to a live person. i’ve since moved on to another bank with less hidden fees.

jane
jane
10 years 30 days ago

I noticed when I went from a big city bank to a small town -poorer community bank (a Bank of America), they would waive fees more often. Also, a lot of times banks won’t do squat over the phone – BUT if you go into the bank in person miraculous things happen – they can do what was once impossible over the phone.

Kaycee Howard
Kaycee Howard
9 years 9 months ago
I love this article, purely because it is exactly what I have been doing for eons. As a young female, I suppose it may be a bit easier for me to get my way, but being polite — yet firm — works miracles truely. eBay once ran up 300 some dollars in fees to my bank account. I walked in to the bank, told them simply “I’d like all of those fees to be reembursed please.” and they did it without hesitation. The problem all to often is that people do not ASK. So — they still make good money… Read more »
Bryan
Bryan
9 years 9 months ago

Thank you for this article and all your others. You run a fantastic website and I greatly appreciate it, and if you do go paid-content one day, you’ve got a subscriber in me.

Thanks for all your hard work!

Ninwa
Ninwa
9 years 8 months ago

I incurred about $250 dollars in overdraft fees. I doubt they would have been as easily convinced to just wipe those as they were for your $14 one. It’s good advice to keep in mind however!

Brian
9 years 7 months ago

I think they return your check so that you can use it to sue the person who issued it in small claims court as a failure to fufill a contract (the check is a contract to pay).

Teeny
Teeny
9 years 7 months ago

I once ran up about $150 in overdraft fees, but at the time I was overseas and more naive, I didn’t even think to ask for them to be reembursed, I wish I would have known to ask.

Len
Len
9 years 7 months ago
When I was a Sophomore in college I went out to the local Denny’s with a group of folks from a class I was in. When I took my bill to the cashier to pay, I handed them my debit card, which had around $30 in the account; my meal was around seven, so, while I was low on funds, it shouldn’t have been a problem. When they handed me the card back with a receipt to sign, the amount on the slip was nearly $35. They had rung me up for the whole table, even though the ticket I… Read more »
Anthony
Anthony
9 years 7 months ago
Ramit, your strategy of asking for the second fee waiver by comparing it to the amount you had waived in a previous interaction would never have occurred to me. Isn’t that like saying to the bank, “You gave me $20 before, but now you are only going to give me $7? If you can give me $20, you can give me $14.” This strikes me as being a situation where you are asking for a better favor now because it is not as good as a previous favor. This angle of approach seems a little tricky to implement. Isn’t using… Read more »
mark
mark
9 years 6 months ago

Believe it or not, this actually works!

I have always been exceptional at balancing my checking account, but a couple of years ago I overdrafted by only a couple of dollars. The fee was 30.00, which I thought was outrageous. I was angry, but was as calm and polite as I could be with the service rep on the phone, and sure enough, he was happy to waive the fee for me. I suspect a lot of it had to do with my attitude.

Jon
Jon
9 years 5 months ago

I ALWAYS call for removal of bank fees. It’s as if they KNOW that they’re bogus, and make money from the people who DON’T call! They always put the $$$ back in when I do.

Russell
Russell
9 years 5 months ago
Now I often do the same thing, but I have run into the same dilemma twice now. Basically, I ordered two services with free 30 day trials, and canceled both within the first week. Both times, one month later, I was charged by the companies for the services never rendered. Both were for about $40 when I had only $20-$30 in my checking account. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I was charged for the services plus the fees. My bank’s line was that it wasn’t a bank error, they couldn’t help me. The company’s line was that they couldn’t… Read more »
Ed
Ed
9 years 3 months ago

Better advice:

Keep $500-$1000 in your bank account, and act like it doesn’t exist. Sure it takes some self control, but the time you’ll save not being on the phone with bank reps will be worth it.

judy
judy
8 months 25 days ago

But you would miss out on the personal interaction with the bank reps and the learning from that call. This is the meat of life.
The point of the article is how to be rich- either increasing your income or reducing your debt or doing both.
If everyone just paid without questioning then banks would double then triple etc fees so you are making the world a better place by questioning and asking for reduced fees.

gary
gary
9 years 3 months ago

i used to work for wells fargo for 3 years; that 3 month thing is a guideline, not a policy, and only applicable to phone bankers. If you were polite and honest, i would reverse fees 100% of the time in my old bank.
p.s. – on that picture of the check, you didn’t blur out the wells fargo account number at the top of check 😉

Gary
Gary
9 years 3 months ago

Avoid the hated bogus fees in the first place simply by not doing business with the money grubbing commercial mega-banks that try to gouge you with them.
I mean, why on earth would you want to do any business,
let alone bank, at an institution with which you have an adversarial relationship.
You’re a customer, for heaven’s sake!
Would you tolerate being treated like that by, say, your grocery store?

I do all my banking with my friendly local Credit Union.
I strongly suggest looking into it.
I cannot remember the last time my CU charged me a fee.
Highly recommended, by me at least.

Roy Gerbil
9 years 3 months ago

I’m with US Bank and they refused to remove over $100 in fees for me. I tried both over the phone and I went to the bank in person. I don’t know why they wouldn’t remove them. It was obvious that the buildup of overdraft fees was causing even more overdraft fees.

Crys
9 years 3 months ago

I recently had $100 in NSF fees when my check was deposited late due to some error. I called up and asked to have at least half of them removed, and they did, which was a big help 🙂 The same goes for getting your credit card APR lowered. I called up and asked for them to lower my APR, and they did.

Ryan
Ryan
9 years 3 months ago

I’m with Wells Fargo, and due to an admitted fault of my own (a recurring quarterly charge I forgot about), my account went under the limit and I was charged over $150 in overdraft fees. This was almost a month ago.

Thanks to your advice, I just called and the (very helpful and pleasant) lady said they were limited to removing $100 worth of charges, but I decided to take what I could get. Two minutes later, my account is $100 richer (the refund was instantaneous) and it feels great! Thanks for the advice!

Dan
Dan
9 years 3 months ago

I had two overdrafts because a direct deposit didn’t go in like it usually did. A couple days later I was in the bank opening a new savings account and just happened to mention the overdrafts. The manager said I can wipe those out for you because you are opening a new account. Something to keep in mind. This isn’t the first time I’ve had some fee removed. Just be friendly but assertive/persistent and most banks will let you off if you aren’t habitual at getting banking fees.

Scott
Scott
9 years 3 months ago
A major travel website charged me more than double than what I had agreed to pay for a plane ticket; apparently the airline had jacked the price up between the time that I selected the fare and when the charge actually went through. I found this out AFTER my flight, as I had bought the ticket the day before the flight. I reviewed the sites terms and conditions, and saw that they make no provision for that sort of thing happening, and that I should be in the clear. So I called them and asked that they refund the amount… Read more »
melisa siler
melisa siler
9 years 2 months ago

how many times can a bank return a check and charge you for it, i was once charged 225.00 because they (the other bank) called my bank to see if the money was in my account. can they charge me for that

Amr @ ninjamoney
8 years 6 months ago

Great article..I don’t think enough people negotiate the small things in life. I never go down without a fight. Even if it’s just at the checkout counter at Walmart. The bottom line is be charming and calm, make them “feel” your story…Because in the end, they (whomever you are arguing with) work for someone else and have been through the same thing.

You can read more about investing and my rags-to-riches life
HERE
,
Amr T

Sara
Sara
7 years 11 months ago
I would like to start off by saying I have horrible history with my bank. By horrible i mean I have literally personally paid to employ half of their workers with the amount of fees on top of fees I have paid for. Using my better judgment i decided it would be a wise decision to throw away my checkbooks. I have never complained about the ridiculous fees because I take full responsibility for my stupid ness. This last time I needed to bring my account out of the hole seamed nearly impossible. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to call… Read more »
Jeremy Shuey
Jeremy Shuey
7 years 10 months ago
I talked my way out of a credit card payment of 546.64. The deal was five months prior I used this card I never use, my aunt charged 69.35 on the card. Two months later I got a bill for 129.35(estimation) for late charges and fee.. I explained that i never knew of the bill and would be more than happy to take care of this. Though I did explain I wouldn’t be paying any fees on this.. They wiped off the fees. i asked what my total bill was and the man said 63.35. So I paid this amount,… Read more »
Tom
Tom
7 years 10 months ago
I used to work for a fairly large bank that operates in New England, Mid Atlantic, and Midwest. After three years there, I had the responsibilities of being a Teller, Customer Service Rep, and Weekend Supervisor (at the same time). The most important thing that I can tell you is NEVER to be rude do the people handling your money. We have a lot more power than you might think. While I never abused this power, it would be easy to do so. For example, Tellers have the power to decide that you seemed “suspicious” that day while doing your… Read more »
Gordon McGregor
7 years 7 months ago

thanks for this. You saved me $40 today for a late fee on a credit card. Called up, politely asked for it to be waived and they said ‘sure!’

So thanks again.

JoJo
JoJo
6 years 4 months ago

Ramit,

I recently accumulated over $1000 in overdraft fees due to a misplaced transfer from savings. Having already had a $20 fee waived, the bank said nay.

Any suggestions?…besides obviously never over-drafting again.

Ita Maulani
1 year 2 months ago

Your story is very interesting. You are very persistent in negotiating a credit card so that you finally succeeded. People who can do as you are very rare. Thank you.

Natalie
Natalie
1 year 1 month ago
Holy cow! I did not believe that would work. Called them to waive silly ATM fee. Gone. Thank you Ramit! I feel like you just treated me out to PinkBerry (yum). On a side note, I am traveling to Europe and wanted to ensure there wouldn’t be any atm fees while abroad. By this point in the conversation, I was so surprised and grateful that I asked *if* they could waive any fees. The question was my mistake in the first place. Either way, they said that there was a 2% fee for using the credit card abroad and that… Read more »
business listings
11 months 7 days ago

Useful information. Fortunate me I discovered your site by accident, and I’m stunned why this twist of fate did
not happened earlier! I bookmarked it.

Reta
Reta
8 months 21 days ago

Me: The reason for my call today is to remove fees on my account
Rep: something about no guarantee it will be removed.
Me: Silent.
Rep: Ok, I have put in a request here. It looks like I was able to remove one of the two fees.
Me: Thank you. Would you kindly try the second one?
Rep: Sure…….. The system is only allowing me to remove one.
Me: (happy I was able to remove at least one) Oh, alright. Thank you.

Darn. Should have escalated to a supervisor. Perhaps I will try again tomorrow.

nikki jones
7 months 11 days ago

College tuition fee is main cost of total college costs. College costs normally depend on the state where the college is situated, the type of college and the quality of college education. Expanded costs frequently mean more school credits and more noteworthy out-of-pocket costs.

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