Though regulators have pushed through a number of changes they hoped would control banks’ fees and charges, financial institutions are finding news ways to nick customers. By now, most Americans know Bank of America recently announced plans to charge debit-card users a $5 monthly fee beginning early next year. But they’re not the only bank to do so.
So what other bank costs are out there, and how can you keep as much of your money as possible? Consider the following nine fees and what you can do about them.—Andrea Woroch
Oh, the Non-humanity
The personal touch is disappearing as more banks offer accounts requiring you transact business either through an ATM or online. Want to speak to an actual human being? That’s going to cost you extra.
What you can do: If the only human faces you see connected with your bank are on billboards, it’s time to move on. You should always know one bank representative by name who can help you out of problems both big and small.
You Can’t Just Walk Away!
Close out your account within three-to-six months of opening it and you could get socked with a $20 to $25 fee. Banks say the charge covers the start-up cost of opening your account.
What you can do: There are many reasons to close-out an account, including moving and dissatisfaction with a bank’s innumerable fees. Try talking to a customer service representative first and see if they won’t waive the charge, depending on your circumstance.
Pay for the Pleasure of Debit Cards
Bank of America isn’t the only financial institution exploring the debit card fee. According to an article on MSN Money, Wells Fargo is testing a $3 monthly fee for debit card users in five states. SunTrust hopped on the bandwagon and is charging some customers $5 a month, and JPMorgan is dipping its toe in the water by trying out a $3 fee in Wisconsin.
What you can do: Regardless of changes in the banking industry, cash is, and likely always will be, king. Consider withdrawing a certain amount of cash each month for your primary purchases. If you can’t part with your plastic, buy gift cards at a discount from sites like GiftCardGranny.com and realize immediate savings with no charge for swiping.
Hold Tight to Your Debit Cards
You’ll pay roughly $5 to replace a lost or stolen debit card, but you’ll have to wait a few weeks for the plastic to come through. If you’re in a hurry — and who isn’t? — there’s a $25 rush fee.
What you can do: Some banks offer cards created in-house, which are faster but lose their magnetism easily. The three-digit security number on the back of these temps also rubs off quickly. You’re better off waiting for a permanent card, even though going without can be a hassle.
Say Goodbye to Free Checking
Most of us haven’t paid for a checking account in years, while enjoying such connected perks as debit-card rewards, free online bill payment, and free check printing. Unfortunately, that’s all about to change. HSBC North America began the trend by converting to checking accounts carrying a fee of up to $15 for monthly maintenance. Wells Fargo ditched freebies as of July 1, and Bank of America is testing tiered checking accounts that will induce us to increase our bank activity.
What you can do: You better shop around if you want to find free checking these days. A locally owned credit union may be your best bet.
Printed Statements are so Passé
Banks say online statements are a service to their customers, but it’s actually saving them paper, postage and other attendant costs. If you want a physical statement to contest an old payment, you’ll pay $3 to $5, or about $1 for a regularly delivered monthly statement.
What you can do: Going paperless has many advantages, but luckily most people have access to a printer. Print out your e-statements and see if those contesting the payment won’t accept this as proof.
Remember when banks returned customers’ cancelled checks in a neat package every month? Today, you’ll pay around $25 for one measly check, based on the time a clerk spends “researching” that slip of paper.
What you can do: You might print out the cancelled check from your e-statement site, but not all debtors will accept this as verifiable proof. This may be one of those instances when you’ll just have to bite the bullet and pay the fee.
Walking on the High Wire
Wire transfers are a safe and secure way to switch money between banks, but institutions like Chase will hit you with a $15 fee before you can access the cash.
What you can do: Avoid this charge by using the right type of account. If you plan on frequently wiring money, check for an account that offers this service as a free benefit.
Cashing it In
Ever feel like your feeding a slot machine when pouring all your change into a coin-counter? Perhaps that’s because your bank is taking a cut from your cash. The standard fee is 5 percent of the total amount converted.
What you can do: Don’t wait until you have bags and bags of loose change before wrapping them in paper rolls. Instead, pick up the empty paper coin tubes at your bank and wrap as you go.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli, Inc.