Bank of America just announced that starting in 2012, it will charge a monthly $5 fee for debit card transactions. Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy devision of Consumer Reports, offers tips for avoiding bank fees in general as more banks start rolling them out.
Other big banks, including Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase, are also testing debit card fees in certain markets. But plenty of other banks are still offering debt card services without a fee.
How to avoid new fees and what to do if you decide to move your money to another bank:
- Be on the lookout for new fees. New fees will show up first in the enclosures and then on bank statements.
- If you are unhappy with a new fee, complain to your bank. Ask what other accounts it offers, one may better fit with your pattern of transactions.
- Note that some fees are “trial balloons.” The bank may be testing to see if its customers will put up with a particular new fee.
- Check with your bank to find out what steps you can take to avoid monthly fees. Some banks will eliminate monthly fees if you use direct deposit for your paycheck or maintain a minimum balance.
- Avoid using non-network ATMs. Every time you use an ATM that is not part of your bank’s network, you get charged by the operator of the ATM and by your bank. That can mean a $5 charge just for withdrawing money.
- If you decide you want to move your money to another bank, you should check out our additional tips (PDF) at www.DefendYourDollars.org. You will want to move money safely, re-route automatic payments and direct deposits and avoid losing money in the process.
“It’s important for consumers to know what fees their bank charges and to understand those fees up front so they can make an informed choice about what they are willing to pay,” said Norma Garcia, manager of Consumers Union's financial services program. “There are a lot of banks and credit unions that will be eager to attract new customers unhappy with all the new fees that some big banks are starting to charge. Consumers can take some steps to limit fees. But if they decide to move their money to another bank, they should keep a few things in mind to avoid financial headaches.”