Tess Vigeland: Now that Uncle Sam has toughened up the rules for overdraft charges and credit card swipe fees, banks are finding all kinds of new ways to make up for that lost income. As a result, it’s getting harder to avoid checking account fees and other charges. And consumers are finding fewer options for avoiding them.
Our senior business correspondent Bob Moon has the story.
Bob Moon: Don’t look now, but it seems even credit unions, which have been a haven from rising fees, aren’t immune from the pressure to charge more.
Greg McBride: Credit unions have been impacted by many of the same regulatory changes that have impacted bank revenues.
BankRate.com’s Greg McBride says among the country’s 50 biggest credit unions, the number still offering free checking with no minimum balance is shrinking — from 76 percent last year, down to 72 percent in the latest survey. Still, McBride points out that leaves a sizeable majority not charging more. He says their not-for-profit status means credit unions aren’t as quick to pull the trigger on raising fees.
McBride: Many of them will continue to have not only things like free checking, but much lower hurdles in terms of balance requirements, or what’s needed to avoid monthly fees.
There’s a greater likelihood that you’ll be paying more for banking at a bank. At MoneyRates.com, senior analyst Richard Barrington says his survey usually shows various banking fees going up and down.
Richard Barrington: This time around, we saw average fees and minimums rising across the board.
And the least you’ll need to keep in your account to get free checking has jumped, on average, by more than 800 bucks.
Barrington: That balance requirement is now over $4,400, and that’s beyond what most people tend to keep in their checking accounts.
Even so, Barrington says a-third of the banks surveyed still offer some kind of free checking, most often smaller community banks, or on the Internet.
Barrington: Online banks are not burdened with the extensive overhead costs that are involved in having a big branch network, and so they often are able to offer either cheaper accounts or higher interest rates on things like savings accounts.
Barrington recommends consumers keep looking for the best deal. With more than seven-thousand FDIC-registered banks, he says, consumers still have a lot of choices.
I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.
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