In the past, those who behaved responsibly with their finances had little to fear in terms of bank fees. Avoid overdrawing your account, and you avoid fees. Make on-time bill payments, and avoid fees. The banking industry, as a whole, is changing the way it does things, though. Now, even though overdraft fees are still a huge money-maker, banks are ready to make more — this time targeting responsible customers who might not keep tens of thousands of dollars in their bank accounts.
$15,000 Minimum Balance
Consumerism Commentary points out that Citi just announced a new minimum (combined checking and savings) of $15,000 if certain customers want to avoid a monthly fee of $20. Other accounts, with lower requirements, are also seeing increases in the monthly fees. I used to have a Citi checking account linked to what used to be a high yield savings account. I used the checking account basically to move money around. The high yield savings represented short-term savings, so I moved money through fairly quickly — and rarely kept anything in the checking account. I closed both accounts when savings account rates fell dramatically, and a new monthly checking fee resulted in an overdraft.
Plenty of other banks are raising account minimums and adding monthly checking account fees. Even my local credit union has just added a monthly fee to its basic checking account.
Debit Card Fees
As you know, Citi isn’t the only offender, and free checking isn’t the only casualty. Bank fees are on the rise everywhere, and new and creative fees are being introduced. Statement fees, fees for teller transactions, and other fees have been popping up all over. The latest fee to cause fervor is the debit card fee. Bank of America’s decision to introduce a monthly fee for those using debit cards has been drawing fire for days now. But you can bet banks are watching to see how everything turns out. Consumers have a habit of yelling about these outrages, and then subsiding to angry murmurs before resigning themselves to the way things are. If Bank of America pulls it off — or if other big banks manage to make it work with $2 and $3 monthly debit card fees — it might just become the next thing consumers expect from a bank.
What Can You Do About Bank Fees?
There is an obvious answer to what you can do about these bank fees: Take your money somewhere else. The problem? It’s kind of a pain to move your money. When you have automatic debits and direct deposit set up, moving everything seems like a monumental task. However, you need to ask yourself this question: At what point do the fees become too much? At what point are you unwilling to accept this erosion to your wealth?
Chances are that moving your money is worth it. There are still financial institutions, online and offline, that provide free checking, and that don’t charge the same fees. Do some comparison shopping and determine where you might find better customer service — and lower fees. You still have options. Upset ramblings won’t change things. Only when customers move their money elsewhere will the banks get the message.
Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.