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Exclusive   Check Card Survey 2007
  STATISTIC: Only seven of 100 banks and thrifts surveyed charge a fee for  
  point-of-sale PIN transactions.  
Check Card Survey 2007

Analysis: Check card fees gone

With no fees for transactions, no debt added to high-interest credit cards, zero-liability fraud protection and new rewards programs, the check card is proving to be a grand slam for consumers.

Check card fees for transactions, whether PIN or signature, have nearly disappeared, according to an exclusive Bankrate survey.

Bankrate researchers surveyed the 10 largest banks and thrifts in 10 top markets and gathered their check card policies and fees. Only seven of the 100 surveyed institutions charge a point-of-sale, or POS, fee for PIN transactions. Five of those charge per transaction and two charge a monthly fee.

Check cards' popularity
Check cards have become nearly universal. Of the 100 banks surveyed, only three do not offer check cards. Of those that do, only two banks -- Bank of the West in San Francisco and Firstrust Savings Bank in Philadelphia -- charge an annual fee to have a card.

Frequency of use per week
Source: The Federal Reserve Board

This is very good news for consumers, who have embraced check cards as their preferred purchasing plastic. Since 2003, check cards have been used to make more purchases than credit cards, according to the Federal Reserve.

"The competitive environment for banks demands that they position themselves to the consumer as offering low-cost checking accounts," says Tim Sloane, director of the Debit Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group, a payments-industry research firm. "Core to the value proposition for consumers is debit cards. The once-common practice of charging transaction fees on debit cards has disappeared."

Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst at Bankrate, agrees.

"Point-of-sale fees for PIN-based debit card transactions appear to be more myth than reality," says McBride. "Nonetheless, cardholders should always verify the terms with their issuers to avoid being surprised."

Signature transactions fee
For signature transactions, only Wells Fargo has a fee, and that is $1 per month for some customers, regardless of the number of transactions.

"Some customers -- depending on account type and applicable waivers -- are charged a $1 usage each month in which they make a purchase using their check card or their ATM card," says Lisa Westermann, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo. "The fee is charged for unlimited PIN-based and signature-based point-of-sale transactions and is only charged if either card has been used for point-of-sale purchases during the statement cycle."

The rise of debit card use is attributable to several factors, primarily money management, convenience and security. "Significant awareness was raised about the high interest rates charged by credit cards and the fees for late payments," says Sloane. "Consumers have been educated about the benefits of debit cards. Consumers see it was a way to budget their money more effectively."

In the 2005/2006 Consumer Payments Usage study, the most important things to consumers were convenience and security.

-- Posted: Mar. 12, 2007
Next: "Check card rewards on the rise"
Page | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

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