Checking account fees will increase

November 11, 2009 4:30:23 PM PST
First, banks tacked on new credit card fees, and now they are targeting consumers' checking accounts. Major banks are raising checking fees that had been waived in the past.Checking accounts may become more expensive for some account holders.

A monthly fee of $7.50 that had been waived for some Citibank customers will now be charged if balances fall below $1,500. At Bank of America, the monthly checking account fee went up to $8.95 for those without direct deposit or who have balances under $1,500. At Chase, non-account holders get hit with a $6 fee for cashing a check written on a Chase account if they try to cash the check at a Chase bank.

Tthe fees have consumers crying foul.

"They are just trying to make money," bank customer Cheryl Alsandor said. "They make billions of dollars in these fees, so I don't like it."

Checking accounts are just the latest financial product to see changes. For months, credit card issuers have raised interest rates, cut limits and added charges for things like not using the credit card enough.

Consumers we spoke with say they feel powerless when it comes to fees.

"It is pretty frustrating to realize you have no options," credit card customer Jake Boshernitzan said. "You can put money under your bed, but really, there are not a lot of options out there."

While the majority of national banks have yet to make changes to their checking account fee structure, some banking industry experts said free checking could be a thing of the past if customers don't take a stand.

"They are going to refuse to pay that fee," said Deana Turner, a representative from the Houston branch of the Better Business Bureau. "It's going to happen like the airline industry, where everyone has to pay to check their bags accept for one airline."

For those people who want alternatives to the fees, look at credit unions or regional banks.

Congress is looking into overdraft fees, and some industry experts said if new rules are passed, it could mean big changes for everyone's checking account. Overdraft fees have brought in billions to the banks and subsidized free checking for everyone.

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