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While consumers and experts were watching for big banks to make up on fees lost as a result of the Durbin Amendment through credit card rewards program changes, most of the major banks hit where no one was looking, instead. By instituting new checking account fees.
New Fees are Coming
In the past few months or in coming months, most banks will be raising checking fees, implementing additional checking account fees or changing the terms by which customers can get free checking.
Capital One, right now, is one of the few larger banks to offer not just free checking, but rewards checking with no fees (other than for insufficient funds, etc.)
Let’s take a look at some of the major banks and their new checking account policies.
Wells Fargo Checking Account Fees
Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia in 2008, got rid of free checking over the summer. The new Value Checking program has a $5 fee associated. To waive the fees, customers need:
- A monthly deposit of $250 or
- A minimum balance of $1,500
Chase Checking Account Fees
The new Wells Fargo fees sound bad, until you hear what Chase bank has in store for customers beginning February 5, 2011.
Chase has always had a $12 monthly fee for their Workplace Checking and Total Checking accounts, but this fee was waived if you had a direct deposit post that month or if you used your debit card five times in a month.
Now, you’ll pay $12 in any month where you don’t:
- Have a direct deposit of at least $500 in one transaction or…
- Maintain a daily balance of $1500 in your checking account or…
- Maintain an average daily balance of $5000 or more in Chase checking and savings accounts combined
When I called Chase customer service, she told me that Paypal deposits don’t count (even though they are listed as ACH deposits on bank statements) and then copped an attitude.
Fortunately, one of my local branches is going to work things out to keep a customer.
Bank of America Checking Account Fees
Bank of America has an $8.95 checking account fee, waived for customers who:
- Receive a monthly direct deposit (amount not specified) or
- Have an average daily balance of $1,500
Citi Checking Account Fees
CitiBank, not exactly renowned for its customer service or stellar credit card rewards programs, seems to have the best checking account policies right now for a basic checking account.
There is no minimum balance to maintain, and to waive the monthly service fee of $8, customers need to do a combination of any of the five transactions below in one month:
- Direct deposit
- Debit card purchase
- Bill pay
- Automatic deductions
- ACH payments
- Checks paid
- Cash withdrawals at any ATM
Essentially, with Citi, if you have an active bank account, you won’t be charged a fee.
What Can Customers Do?
It’s easy to see that big banks are now targeting the “big money,” and forgetting about their “regular customers’” needs, including senior citizens, lower-income families and individuals, and even independent contractors who don’t have direct deposit.
The best thing banking customers can do is read their statements carefully.
In this age of online banking, many of us never even open our bank statements but instead track our balances and transactions online. Chase placed notification of the new terms right at the top of the December 2011 statement, so at least the bank wasn’t being evasive.
Read your statements and, if you don’t like what you see, consider a local bank, online-only bank, or a credit union.
Remember, too, rules can be stretched in the name of good customer service. A visit to your bank branch and a friendly chat with a personal banker or branch manager may help.
Keep in mind, during negotiations with your bank, that you have other options — although they may not be as convenient. Customers can always fight back by moving their money.