How bank customers can avoid extra fees

October 3, 2011 3:43:16 PM PDT
Bank fees on your debit card are about to cost you, in some cases five dollars a month if you use the card to buy things. It's gotten a lot of people mad, but many are unsure just what they can do about it.

When you hear that banks are raising the fees on debit cards, you probably think the fees are coming to every bank, but it's just not the case. Banking fee increases are not popular with most people.

Bank customer Kris Parker said, "They keep thinking of ways they can charge us and they keep inventing more ways to make up more fees and stuff."

Chris Parker and Ann Henry's bank has not placed new fees on debit card transactions, but they fear Bank of America's move to charge a five dollar monthly fee to customers who buy things with a debit card will become industry standard.

"It's not like the big banks are ever going to change," Henry said.

That's a thought shared by many. Bank customer Katie Forney said, "I feel like once big banks start doing it, probably the smaller banks will follow suit."

It turns out that's not the case. The new fees are being rolled out primarily by banks with assets totaling more than $10 billion, because those banks charged businesses up to 44 cents each time someone used a debit card. Now those interchange fees are capped around 22 cents per transaction.

Smaller banks like locally owned Prosperity Bank are not subject to the new rules, and neither are credit unions, and those institutions are not planning to change debit card fees passed on to consumers.

LeAnn Kaczynski, CFO of Smart Financial Credit Union, explained, "Our interchange rates are not changing so we are not in the process of making any changes to our debit card

Kaczynski says credit unions are not for profit institutions, so fees are generally lower and they are a lot easier to join than most people think.

"We have a community charter," she said. "We can bring in members that live, work, or attend church or worship in Montgomery, Harris and parts of Fort Bend counties."

The best advice is to shop around. You can do a lot of research on the web, but you can also simply walk into a branch and ask about the fees a bank or credit union charges.

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