By Jim Donovan: The major banks these days must have a lot of free time on their hands these days. From what I’ve being seeing, they aren’t loaning anyone money, they’ve failed miserably when it comes to keeping people from losing their homes to foreclosure, and rather than find ways to keep customers happy, they seem to come up with more reasons to encourage them to walk away.

Citibank is the latest bank to notify customers that it’s increasing the fees on several of the bank’s checking accounts.

Beginning on December 9th Citibank will begin charging $15 per month on their EZ Checking accounts. You can avoid the monthly charge by maintaining a $6,000 minimum balance. Previously, the charge was $7.50 per month unless you maintained a $1,500 minimum balance.

The Citibank Basic Package is also changing. The bank is adding a $1,500 minimum monthly balance for its basic checking account. Customers will be charged a $10 fee if the balance falls below this minimum at any time during the month. In this case you can avoid the monthly fee if you make one direct deposit and one online bill payment during the month. Right now there is no minimum balance, but there is an $8 monthly fee if you customer don’t have a combination of five qualifying transactions.

Finally, premium checking customers will be happy to learn that the monthly cost remains at $20, but (there is always is a but) the minimum balance to waive this fee increases from $6,000 to $15,000. The minimum balance can be achieved by combining all Citi linked accounts (investment accounts, mortgage, credit cards retirement accounts).

I suggest that if you bank with Citi that you start looking into joining a credit union.