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Beware Of Checking Account Fees

Checking Fees

Beware of ATM fees and other fees on your checking account. (Credit: CBS)

NEW YORK (CBS) – Checking, as most of us know, is definitely the banking of our parents – and soon, even they might scoff at the idea, as banks continue to hike fees just for the privilege of having such an account.

CBS MoneyWatch.com’s Jill Schlesinger explains what is behind the new fees, and how to avoid them.

Have you used an ATM that’s not tied to your bank lately? If so, you’re likely suffering sticker shock.

On average, you’ll pay $3.74 to use out of network ATMs, up 5 percent from last year.

But the fees don’t stop there. Many banking services once offered for free, now come at a price.

“The best example of that is the free checking account that became so commonplace in recent years,” said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate. “What we’re seeing now instead is that some of the larger banks are doing away stand-alone free checking accounts.”

That’s right, the nation’s biggest banks have all recently done away with free checking accounts.
If you don’t meet minimum balance or other requirements, you’ll pay $5 to $12 a month for a basic account.

“It’s changes to overdraft fees, and a pending change to debit card fees, that are really changing the landscape in terms of those free checking accounts,” McBride said.

In other words, don’t expect these new checking fees to go away. Instead, look for ways to avoid them.

All of the banks agree to waive monthly fees if you meet certain requirements. In addition to minimum balances, you may need to use direct deposit, or bank exclusively online or through ATMs.

See if changing your banking behavior makes sense. If not, it may be time to take your business elsewhere.

Investigate smaller community banks, credit unions, and online banks, which tend to have lower fees than big banks.

Bankrate recently found that 76 percent of credit unions still offer free checking.

“Credit unions can offer free checking accounts certainly more so than their banking competitors because they are not-for-profit organizations – they exist for the benefit of their members,” McBride said.

To find out more about joining a credit union or finding a great online bank, click on the links below:

Four ways to beat the new high bank fees, from MoneyWatch.

Find a credit union.

Learn about the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, for members of the U.S. Armed Forces, defense-related companies, and veterans.