Avoid hidden banking fees

Many students receive financial aid that's greater than tuition, and the extra covers things such as rent and textbooks.

Now debit cards issued by banks and student lenders are replacing checks as the way to disburse those funds.

While it may sound handy to carry a debit card, many have high fees, which lenders are supposed to spell out in the loan documents. One of the most controversial is a PIN fee.

Ethan Senack, U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s higher education fellow, says banks prefer signature-based transactions because merchants pay higher fees than if you swipe and enter your PIN.

So debit card issuers levy fees for PIN purchases. One company charges 50 cents for every PIN-based debit card purchase.

Smart move: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says you can't be forced to use a certain bank or card to access student aid.

Instead, ask for the excess to be issued in a check, paid out in cash or direct-deposited into your bank account.

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