MADISON, Wis. (9/28/11)--The gap between the historically low rates credit unions offer their members and the higher rates big banks charge their customers could become even wider as a result of the new debit interchange fee cap regulations, according to a Tuesday USA Today article. The Federal Reserve’s final rule set a cap of 21 cents for debit card fees, and allows an additional five basis points of the value of the transaction to cover fraud losses. But the law mandating reduction in debit card fees exempts credit unions and banks with assets of less than $10 billion. The USA Today article, “Your Money: Act to avoid bank services fees,” advises consumers to consider credit unions and small banks as an option for free checking. The article, written by personal finance columnist Sandra Block, cites a survey conducted in the spring by the U.S. Public Research Interest Group, which found that consumers could find deals at regional banks and credit unions. “Similarly, a Bankrate survey found that three-quarters of credit unions offered free checking, and 96% offered it for account holders who had direct deposit or agreed to receive electronic bank statements,” Block wrote. Only 45% of non-interest checking accounts are free, down from 65% in 2010 and 76% two years ago, according to the Bankrate.com survey. The average monthly fee for a non-interest checking account is $4.37, an increase from $2.49 last year. The average fee for an interest-bearing checking account is $14.15, up from $13.04, according to the survey. To read the article, use the link.