Not too long ago, consumers were up in arms about the bank fees charged by Bank of America. Indeed, some major banks toyed with the idea of adding a debit card fee. With consumers fresh off the anger of taxpayer-funded bailouts of major banks, additional fees didn’t go over too well. However, banks continue to moan about regulation and falling revenues (the big banks still make billions of dollars a year) and unhappy stockholders.
Banks backed off on fees for the sake of publicity, but it looks like some banks are testing out new fees in order to bolster falling profits. And, as many expect, Bank of America is in the vanguard of testing new fees. With banks testing out new fee structures on a variety of accounts, it means that you need to be vigilant. Keep tabs on your bank and your bank accounts, and be ready to change banks in order to avoid fees. Watch out for the latest charging tactics.
Sneaky Fees to Watch For
Many banks probably won’t announce overt fees like a monthly debit card fee. Instead, fees are a little sneakier. Fees are increasingly connected to activity, and to minimum balances. Some banks are requiring that you perform a certain amount of transactions in order to avoid fees. Or, you might have to maintain a certain minimum balance – and that balance is rising in some cases to as much as $5,000 or even $15,000 (combined accounts). Others require you to have three or four bank accounts, or at least have a loan, in order to avoid fees.
These sneaky fees are a little harder to catch because they aren’t straightforward monthly fees. Look at the information your bank sends you, since that is where the information will be. Read notices on your bank statement as well. Sometimes, new fees are announced in fine print on the statements, or the announcement comes in an envelope that looks more like junk mail than a banking notice. Keep an eye out, or you might find yourself unpleasantly surprised.
Looking for Fee-Free Banking
Worries about the demise of free checking have been circulating for a while. The good news, though, is that there are plenty of financial institutions out there willing to offer you access to fee-free banking. Indeed, many people have been making the switch to credit unions. (Be careful, though; even some credit unions have fees attached to their accounts).
However, thanks to technology, it is possible to find better deals – and not be limited by geography. Online checking accounts are increasingly popular because they cost less. Part of that has to do with overhead. Not too long ago, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase insisted that it costs $300 a year for a bank to maintain an account. Many online banks, though, have lower costs – and can pass the savings on to you.
If your bank is adding fees, check around for lower cost accounts. You might be surprised at what you can find if you look for it.