You can avoid minimum-balance charges on your mutual fund. By Joan Goldwasser, Senior Reporter December 31, 2008 Watching your mutual fund's value shrink as the stock market tanks is painful enough. It adds insult to injury when your fund company charges a fee because your shrunken account no longer meets the minimum-balance requirement. But you can avoid those fees by taking a few easy steps.If your balance in any one account drops below $10,000, Vanguard charges a $20 annual fee. But sign up to manage your account online and receive electronic delivery of statements and reports, and you can invest fee-free. (Vanguard also waives minimum-balance fees if the total value of all your accounts is $100,000.) If you do owe fees, they won't be deducted until mid 2009, and a spokesperson says that Vanguard "typically makes allowances for investors whose balances drop as a result of market declines." T. Rowe Price shareholders pay a $10 fee per account if their balance drops below $2,000 (or below $500 for custodial accounts for minors). The fee won't be assessed until September, so you have a good shot at recouping your losses. If that doesn't reassure you, avoid the fee by signing up for automatic investing of as little as $50 a month. American Century charges a semiannual account-maintenance fee of $12.50 if your total account balance drops below $10,000. But the fee is waived if you manage your account online. To help its shareholders cope with the market turmoil, Fidelity lowered the minimum account balance needed to avoid its $12 annual maintenance fee from $2,000 to $1,700 for 2008, and the company made August 8 the cutoff date for determining your balance.