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New bank fees will require consumers to be more vigilant

January 28, 2011

By Barbara Marquand | Money Rates Columnist

As brick-and-mortar banks continue to roll out new fees in an effort to raise revenue, an increasing number of experts are warning consumers to look for an alternative to their current checking account.

The big banks are reeling from two recent regulatory moves: new restrictions on overdraft charges and proposed new limits on debit card swipe fees. The swipe fees alone, which are expected to be capped at $0.12 per transaction this summer, could cost U.S. banks up to $23 billion a year.

They've responded with a barrage of money-making schemes, from selling advertising embedded in your online bank statement to annual fees on checking accounts and debit cards. Many banks are starting to charge for checking accounts, and many are also increasing ATM transaction fees and ATM receipt-printing services. If you've gotten used to having those check images show up in your bank statements, you soon may have to start paying for the luxury.

It doesn't end there. Banks are also talking about limiting the number of transactions you can make in a day and limiting the size of the ATM purchases you can make. Many rewards checking programs are also expected to be eliminated.

What this means for anyone who watches their money closely is that you'll have to be even more vigilant. According to The Boston Globe and Wallet Pop, here is what some of the experts are advising:

  • Consider moving to a credit union or small, regional bank. Many of these places will still be offering free checking accounts. According to the Credit Union National Association, credit union patrons pay less than half what bank customers pay in annual fees--and that was before the banks started raising fees. Car loans and mortgage rates are often cheaper there, too.
  • Get used to doing without a human teller. If you can get comfortable setting up direct deposits into your checking account or savings accounts, paying bills online and using a limited number of ATMs, it's likely that you'll save money in the long run.
  • Read the fine print. If your bank is starting to charge for your checking account, you may be able to avoid fees by maintaining a minimum balance or agreeing to a limited number of transactions per month.

Look for newcomers entering your banking market. According to a Jan. 5 Business Insider article, the flurry of new fees is going to create a demand for new banks to service all those customers fleeing the larger banks. You can benefit from this by taking advantage of introductory offers to open a checking account at those new banks.

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