(1) When you use your debit card at an ATM, stay within your bank's network. Otherwise, you may charge $1 or $2 for the transaction. Some financial institutions maintain large networks while others manage smaller ones. The size of the network is not as important as having an ATM near your home or work.
When you withdraw money, take out enough to last the entire week. That way, you won't be forced to make an unplanned $20 withdrawal at a machine outside your bank's network.
(2) These days, it's easier than ever to get a free checking account. Many banks offer them because they realize a lot of free checking account customers will need loans, investments, and other financial services down the road.
If you're paying a monthly charge for maintaining your checking account, ask your bank whether they offer a free alternative. In most cases, you'll discover they do.
(3) If you don't know how much money is in your account, it's easy to bounce checks. In the old days, you needed to keep meticulous records because statements were mailed monthly. Today, you can log into your bank's website and balance everything online. It only takes a few minutes and doing so will help you avoid bouncing checks.
Remember, each time you write a check without having enough money to cover it will carry a hefty charge (often, as much as $30). Keep track of your balance online and you won't need to worry.