How to Combat New Banking Fees

As institutions look for ways to cut losses, you can too

You have options to cut back on banking fees.

I’m sure after reading my earlier post, you’re happy to see changes in banking fees as a result of the credit card reform that’s currently under way. You’re probably feeling a bit hopeful about bank customer service and you might even believe that banks are actually starting to care about consumers and the fees they’ve been saddled with.

Well, you can put all those happy feelings away because that’s not the case. Just like most businesses, banks are about making money. As a result of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, bank revenues have taken a hit. How are the banks going to make up the difference? By creating new fees, that’s how. Here are some changes that might be coming to a bank near you:

The end of free checking: Don’t take your free checking account for granted because you might not have it for very long. Some of the major banks are deciding to end free checking and instead charge monthly fees. Among the banks ending this perk is Wells Fargo. Starting July 1, the bank will no longer offer free checking. Some banks are waiving maintenance fees, but have added more to their requirements such as adding certain bank products or maintaining a certain balance.

How you can fight back: As an alternative, you can consider banking with a local community bank or credit union. “Most credit unions still have free checking,” says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst with Bankrate.com, a financial education Website. Bankrate features a list on its site called Safe and Sound, which lists bank ratings. This is a useful tool for researching a credit union.You might also be able to score a better deal on checking by staying with one bank for multiple banking needs. For example, you might have a checking account in addition to a mortgage and investment accounts.  However, McBride warns that this doesn’t mean you’ll get the best deal. “You’ll get a lower fee, but there might be something better at another bank. It really pays to shop around,” says McBride.

Changes to interest-bearing accounts: Banks might also increase the minimum amount required in order to receive interest.

How you can fight back: McBride suggests asking the bank to waive the requirement. “You might be able to ask for a waiver since banks are still in the early stages of creating the new fees. “It doesn’t hurt to call customer service and ask for a special arrangement,” says McBride.

Inactivity fees: Justin Pritchard, certified financial planner and banking expert at About.com, also notes that banks might begin charging additional fees for things like not making a certain number of debit card transactions each month.

How you can fight back: Pritchard echoes McBride’s suggestion to speak to customer service and try to have the fee reversed. “If you’re not getting anywhere, let your feet do the talking and find another bank,” says Pritchard.

Fees for added services. Furthermore, some banks might charge fees for services like credit reports and fraud alerts.

How you can fight back: Order your free credit report each year from Annualcreditreport.com. Monitor your own credit for free. Learn how in my post, Free Ways to Monitor Your Credit.

Sheiresa Ngo is the consumer affairs editor at Black Enterprise.

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