Bank Fees Continue to Increase as Free Checking Becomes Rarer and Rarer
October 2, 2012
A recent Bankrate.com survey shows checking account fees and restrictions continue to increase, while the availability of truly free checking is becoming rarer. The average required minimum balance is now over $700, according to the survey.
According to Bankrate, only 39 percent of non-interest bearing checking accounts were free of any fees or minimum balance requirements, down from 45 percent last year and the peak of 76 percent in 2009. These statistics, as well as those from similar surveys, are causing consumers to look at their own situations more closely and critically.
The Bankrate survey also noted ATM fees continue to increase. The average fee charged by a bank to a non-customer using one of its ATMs was $2.50, up four percent year-over-year. It was the eighth straight year average ATM surcharge fees increased. Similarly, banks increased the amount they charged their own customers to use other banks’ ATMs to an average of $1.57 per transaction, and increased overdraft fees 1.4 percent to a record high of $31.46.
Still, consumers have choices when banking, and can make decisions based on their own preferences and specific financial needs. Free checking is attainable without tying up significant amounts of money by being creative, including using direct deposit or moving funds to a bank or credit union that offers free checking.
Additionally, consumers can single out banks and credit unions that offer surcharge-free ATMs, many of which are community banks and credit unions. And while these smaller financial institutions may appear to have a limited service area, many are affiliated with networks of shared branches throughout the United States. Some also have international coverage. This all means customers and members of these financial institutions can enjoy similar geographical coverage, and in some cases expanded coverage, than is available with large commercial banks.