What if you threw away dollar bills every time you found them in your pocket? Does it matter how you pay for your family’s everyday purchases – with cash, credit/debit card or personal check? In fact, the way you choose to pay in stores and restaurants may be costing you (and the local stores you shop in) thousands of dollars a year.

These days, you can charge just about anything with a major credit card. But some non-plastic payment methods may allow you to get more for your dollar – and keep more of your hard-earned money in your local economy.

Here are a few times you may be paying extra or accepting unnecessary limits on your payment freedoms, and how to avoid them.

* ATM fees. You may knowingly be paying ATM fees, but you might be wise to select a bank that offers unlimited free withdrawals. Most credit card companies will charge you for cash advances from ATMs, but might not reveal the charge during your transaction. Make sure you’re clear on the terms of your card before proceeding.

* Transaction fees. You should be aware of credit card fees that accompany certain transactions. Use cash or a personal check if credit card fees apply to a purchase you’re making. Businesses often have to pay a fee for card transactions, so you support your favorite stores more if you pay with cash or personal check.

* Interest rates and annual fees. Credit cards can be a great way to build credit and earn benefits, but if you aren’t keeping your balance at, or close to, zero, you are losing out big-time by paying interest. If you’re having trouble keeping your credit card balance down, you may want to consider sticking with a card attached to a checking account and your checkbook.

And here’s the biggest surprise: How popular personal checks still are. In fact, 18 billion checks are still processed every year in the U.S. alone–making checks the most frequent form of non-cash payment in America.

Many Americans still prefer having the option to pay with check as well as with credit or debit cards, according to a recent survey conducted by public affairs firm Ipsos on behalf of Deluxe Corporation. Seventy-five percent of consumers said they should have the right to pay with whatever method they wanted when making a purchase at a store – including cash, card or check. Thirty-eight percent of consumers surveyed would consider walking out of, or not returning to, a store or restaurant if that business refused to accept their checks as payment. And one-fifth of consumers say that a sign in a store which says “We Do Not Accept Checks” is an example of ‘bad customer service.’

A new consumer advocacy campaign, “Stand Up For Your Right To Write Checks,” is underway to preserve your option to use checks as a form of payment at www.righttowritechecks.com.