Check for new fees as banks look to recoup money lost during recession

October 14, 2011 4:23:34 PM PDT
You probably know all about the new debit card fees big banks are rolling out, but those are not the only ones that can cost you.

The next time you hear from your bank, don't be surprised to learn you're facing higher fees. New federal regulations put caps on what banks can charge in several areas, so banks are looking for new ways to make money. Consumer Reports Money Adviser says you have to be on your toes to avoid paying more.

Bill Nugent says when reviewing his bank statement, he discovered he was being charged a $25 fee for a line of credit he says he never even applied for.

"You really should look at your bank statements, because there may be fees you're being charged for that you're not even aware of," Nugent said.

Nugent ended up consolidating several accounts to avoid the $25 fee. Consumer Reports Money Adviser says being proactive is key in the war against escalating bank fees.

Banks have lost billions of dollars as a result of bad loans, the weak economy, and recent regulatory changes, and they're looking to recoup some of that money.

"The latest blow to banks are new rules that virtually cut in half the fee that large banks can charge retailers when people pay with their debit cards," said Greg Daugherty with Consumer Reports.

Even before the debit card rule went into effect, certain banks -- including USAA Bank, Chase and U.S. Bank -- announced they will stop offering debit card rewards for most customers.

And what if you lose your debit card? Bank of America is now charging some customers $5 to replace it.

But Consumer Reports Money Adviser says there are ways you can avoid being nickel and dimed.

First, even if it looks like junk mail, read all bank correspondence, including the fine print, to keep on top of new fees. And, if you're a longtime customer or have large deposits -- negotiate. You might be able to get a better deal or have certain fees waived.

"If there's no way around higher fees, consider moving your account. Good places to consider are local banks, credit unions and online banks," Daugherty said.

Consumer Reports says one online bank to consider is Ally Bank. It offers no-fee, interest-bearing checking accounts.

If you do end up moving your account, Consumer Reports says be sure to check if your bank charges to close your account. Some banks now charge a closing fee if the account has recently been opened.

And before you open a new account or move another, check the website for the new bank or credit union and search their fees and be sure to look through them carefully.

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