Checking account fees have risen to an all-time high, according to a study released Monday by Bankrate, Inc. The 2010 Checking Study looks at the fees associated with maintaining an interest-bearing account, including ATM surcharges, bounced check fees, and monthly fees, and the data show that costs have ballooned.
If the ATM you use charges a fee, you’re paying an average of 5% more than you used to; that’s how much fees went up in 2009, to an average of $2.33. If your bank doesn’t charge you to use its ATMs, but you find you simply must use another bank’s ATM in an emergency, you’ll likely get hammered twice: once from the bank that owns the ATM (that $2.33 again!), and once by your own bank for going outside of the network. Call it a disloyalty fee—and be prepared to fork over another $1.41, which is 7% more than you used to. So next time you’re tempted to stray from the fold, be prepared to make a contribution of $3.74 as your penance. Either that, or find a bank that doesn’t charge a penalty to use someone else’s ATM. So far, they’re still out there.
Speaking of checking accounts, fewer than ever are free. If you’re used to that little perk, you might have to shop around and go to a community bank or credit union, since the bigger banks are finding that they miss all those fees they aren’t allowed to charge you any more on your overdrafts. You might be able to keep your account fee-free, if you keep a higher balance, but that minimum balance is up 34% from last year, from $185.75 to $249.50. Or you might find that you have to restrict your banking to Internet-only transactions—no humans involved. Except you, of course.