By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new survey finds consumers are facing more “fee” than “free” when it comes to banking and checking services. As 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan tells us, people in our area are often charged the most in the nation (see previous story).
According to Bankrate.com, Philadelphia banks charge customers the highest fees in the country to use another bank’s or company’s ATM’s, on average $1.96. Tack on the $2.50 charged by the ATM operator, and you could up being out $4.46 in fees, just to get access to your money.
In fact, according to an annual look at banking fees by Bankrate.com, Americans all across the nation are paying more to use their money. Greg McBride of Bankrate says, “We continue to see an increase in monthly service charges for checking accounts. With a decline in free checking, not only are more accounts charging a monthly fee, but the fees themselves are moving higher, both interest and non-interest checking accounts.”
The Bankrate survey found ATM surcharges for a bank’s non-customers rose 4% over last year. The average overdraft fee was up 1.4%, and the average monthly fee for a checking account was up 25%. That’s all while the percentage of free checking accounts shrunk to 39%, way off a peak of 76% in 2009.
The good news is that most fees can be avoided, whether it’s more discipline when choosing an ATM, or in the case of many checking accounts, maintaining a minimum monthly balance. Otherwise, a bank switch may be in order. There are still plenty of smaller community banks, credit unions, and online banks that continue to offer those stand-alone free checking accounts. Just keep in mind that smaller banks may not have the full range of financial services, like loans, mortgages and more.