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Bank fees survey Fees are rising
FOSTER CITY, Calif. (8/15/12)--"The fee environment worsened for bank customers in virtually every way possible in the first half of the year," according to a new survey from MoneyRates.com that says banks' fees are rising (Money.MSN.com Aug. 14).

The survey is different from one reported Tuesday that compared bank and credit union fees and showed credit unions consistently had lower and fewer fees on checking accounts. (For more information on that survey, see related story:  "CUs get global notice from rates study.) In the new study, no credit unions were included.

Average checking account fees at banks rose in every major category tracked, according to the new Mid-2012 Bank Fees Survey, conducted in July by MoneyRates.com (Aug. 13). It compared the findings with its survey for year-end 2011. The survey is produced semi-annually.

Among the findings in the six areas the study tracked:

  • Minimum required to open an account. Banks required an average $408.76 to open a checking account, up from $391.41 in the previous survey.  Money Rates noted that the higher the minimum, the more likely poorer customers may be forced to go unbanked.
  • Monthly service fees. Of the banks surveyed that charge a monthly fee, the average fee was $12.08 a month, up from $11.28 a month. That totals nearly $145 a year and can take a bite out of a savings account, Money Rates said.
  • Minimum balance for fee waiver. The minimum amount needed to keep the bank from charging fee on deposits is rising to $4,446.57, up from $3,590.83.
  • Overdraft fees.  At banks, overdraft fees were on average $29.83, an increase from $29.23 in year-end 2011.
"Previous surveys have tended to show more of a mixed bag, with some fees rising and others falling," said Richard Barrington, Money Rates senior financial analyst. "But the latest survey shows a comprehensive trend toward checking accounts becoming more expensive."

Fee structures differed between large and small banks, and between traditional branch-based institutions and online banks.

Barrington made several suggestions for consumers, including shopping around, considering an online bank, considering a smaller institution, and matching one's needs with the bank's fees.

A number of media covering this study also mentioned a Bankrate.com study that found credit unions are a haven for fee-sensitive consumers.
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