Banks raise fees, but few customers pay

By Rich Mintzer

In an effort to recoup lost revenues, banks continue adding new fees. However, according to an ABA survey, 71 percent of bank customers are paying no fees at all.

On Sep. 16, CitiGroup announced that as of December, it would begin charging a monthly fee of $10 on checking accounts and savings accounts that have combined balances of less than $1,500. However, the fee is waived if a customer completes at least one direct deposit and makes one online bill payment per month, or maintains a $1,500 minimum combined balance in savings and checking accounts.

Bank of America added checking account fees last year, as well as a monthly fee of $7 for teller visits or paper statements, while Wells Fargo recently joined a list of other banks, including JP Morgan Chase, that are contemplating whether or not to add monthly debit card fees.

Saving on checking account fees

While banks keep adding fees in an attempt to offset the lost revenue from new Federal regulations, a recent survey by the American Bankers Association shows that 71 percent of bank customers are finding ways to completely avoid such bank fees. The annual ABA survey, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, an independent market research firm, polled over 2,000 U.S. adults (18 and over) online for three days in August and provided the following responses:

  • 71 percent said they pay nothing;
  • 11 percent said $3 or less
  • 6 percent said $4 to $6
  • 4 percent said $7 to $9
  • 7 percent said they pay $10 or more.

The respondents who are not paying fees indicated that they were simply banking responsibly and not ignoring such fees.

Saving money on fees

In an effort to help consumers reduce banking costs, the ABA listed the following six banking tips:

  1. Free checking and savings accounts--Most banks offer them though some may require maintenance of a minimum balance.
  2. Use native ATM machines - Avoid fees by using ATMs owned by or affiliated with your bank.
  3. Direct deposit - Many checking accounts are free when your paycheck is automatically deposited each month.
  4. Minimum balance - Keep at least the minimum balance in your account.
  5. Don't overdraw - Keep track of transactions and account balances to avoid bounced check fees.
  6. Email or text alerts - Ask for an automatic alert when your balance falls below a certain level.

In addition, the ABA recommends that bank customers should carefully read the policies of the bank prior to opening a savings or checking account, as well the notices the bank sends to account holders. It's also important for customers to ask questions of bank personnel to clarify anything that they do not understand.

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