Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free Money

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free MoneyA simple mistake like overdrafting from your account can incur lots of unnecessary fees, making you lose money for, essentially, no reason. Similarly, by signing up for simple rewards programs or otherwise cleverly using your bank and credit card, you can get money from doing the things you already do. Here are our top 10 ways to increase the cash in your pocket without changing how you spend.

10. Find the Right Bank

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free MoneyObviously, if your bank is chock full of fees, you might want to start looking somewhere else. However, while you're looking, you might want to check out our primer on what to look for in a bank. Fees aren't the only thing to watch out for; you should also research minimum balances, interest rates, and other features to make your finances a bit easier to manage. While you're at it, though, you should check out the three most common bank fees and make a mental note to avoid them.

9. Switch to a Credit Union

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free MoneyIf, on the other hand, you're sick of big banks and their high fees, bad customer service, and other annoyances, you can put your money in a smaller, member-supported credit union. They can often offer competitive interest rates and great customer service, though there are a few things you'll want to know before you jump in. Check out our guide to making the switch if it sounds like something you'd be interested in. While you're at it, check out NerdWallet to find the best credit union near you. They also have a list of other big bank alternatives, if a credit union isn't your cup of tea.

8. Skip the Fee-Ridden Perks

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free MoneyWhile perks are a good way to get some of that free money, other perks—like identity theft protection and credit score tracking—can come with fees attached that, over time, will add up and get you spending more money than you should. And, in a lot of cases, they aren't that great anyways.

7. Use Jenny's Number for Grocery Store Discounts

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free MoneyYou probably have a rewards card at your most frequented grocery store, but don't let that stop you from visiting other stores—or getting discounts when you do. You don't need to sign up for a rewards card everywhere you go; just give them Jenny's Number (867-5309) to get an instant discount.

6. Combine Your Cash Back Credit Card and Checking Account

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free MoneyLots of credit cards give you cash back rewards, but you can double your rewards with a simple trick: just combine it with a cash back checking account. Charge everything to your cash back credit card, then pay it off with the checking account and you'll get (nearly) double the rewards. All it takes is finding the right combination of bank and credit card and you'll get double the free money back.

5. Try a High Interest Savings Account

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free MoneyIf you like to keep a lot of money in the bank, you can get a lot back with a high interest savings account, like one of these five. When we asked you guys, you gave ING Direct your seal of approval, so that may be a good place to start. Alternatively, if that isn't for you, you can try a Flexible Spending Account, which sets aside money for things like health care before taxes are deducted from your paycheck—which means you can save up to 30% on those costs.

4. Apply Student Discounts to Everything You Can (Even If You Aren't a Student)

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free MoneyYou can get student discounts on all sorts of things, including some of our favorite tech-related products here at Lifehacker—both hardware and software. It doesn't take a lot of work to get them, but it can save you a ton of money. And, if you aren't a student anymore (and have flexible ethics), you can get those discounts anyway with a bit of fudging.

3. Find Unclaimed Money in Your Name

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free MoneyAs ridiculous (and spammy) as it may sound, you could actually have unclaimed money or property in your name, just waiting to be picked up. Use a search engine like Missing Money, Treasury Hunt, or the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits to find out if you have anything in your name waiting for you. Remember, of course, that claiming said property should never incur a fee, so don't fall for any scams when you're trying to claim what's yours.

2. Use a Debit Card Without Getting Screwed

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free MoneyIf you like the convenience of debit cards but don't like the risk they carry, there are a few things you can do to make the most of them. Make sure you know your rights, like when overdraft fees are allowed. Then, learn the tricks to avoiding all those fees, while also preventing fraud. Again, they aren't always the safest way to spend your money, but they're one of the simplest ways if you can make sure you use it responsibly.

1. Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Fees and Get Free MoneyThe safest way to spend is with a credit card. Not only are you less likely to incur fees, but they're much more likely to come with awesome cash back rewards. We've rounded up the five best credit cards for getting rewards, in addition to our hive five on travel-based rewards cards (you know, if you're more of a globetrotter). They aren't without fees completely, of course, but with a bit of foresight, you can spend your money safely while getting quite a bit back in return. Of course, if you're stuck with a certain card, you can always make the most of its lousy rewards program by selling your gift cards, too.

Got any of your own tips for getting the most money out of your bank, credit card, or other rewards? Share them with us in the comments below.

Title photo by Aperture51 (Shutterstock).

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