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Exclusive   2007 Checking Study
  STATISTIC: Bounced-check fee climbs 3 percent to $28.23. Checking account  
  fees keep going up, Bankrate's survey shows.  

Banking fees up again
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Another change that occurred is that the most common surcharge assessed is no longer $1.50, as it had been in all previous editions of the study. The baton has been passed and now the most prevalent charge is $2, a change signifying the steady march higher in ATM fees levied to nonaccountholders.

And for some banks they are rising even more. Bank of America recently increased its surcharge in most markets to $3.

Not only has the fee itself moved higher, but the prevalence of ATM surcharges is now nearly universal. As of the current survey, 99 percent of banks with ATMs -- yes, 99 percent -- charge noncustomers for using the bank's ATMs.

See ATM details.

The contrast between interest and noninterest
The skinny on interest and noninterest checking accounts is nothing new, but it bears repeating. Interest checking accounts at brick-and-mortar banks offer very little in the way of interest but extract a lot of blood in the form of high balance requirements and lofty monthly service fees.

Noninterest accounts, on the other hand, are characterized by very low minimum deposits, while the balance requirements and monthly service fees are conspicuously absent. The landscape of noninterest accounts is frequently populated with free checking accounts.

The findings in the current survey certainly underscore those truths. Start with the minimum balance to open a checking account. For a noninterest account, the average amount required is just $83.02, down from $87.67 last year. For an interest-bearing account, you'll need to plunk down 60 percent more than was the case last year, $986.19, compared to $615.41, to open the account and earn interest. In fairness, you may be able to open the account for less, but the threshold it takes to earn interest keeps moving higher.

And what do you earn for your trouble? A paltry 0.32 percent. But this rate of interest, which is anything but interesting, is nothing compared to the fees.

On an interest-bearing checking account, the average monthly service fee is $11.72, nearly $1 higher than last year's average of $10.74. Ninety-five percent of the interest accounts in the survey charge a monthly service fee. And the number of banks raising the fee since the last survey outnumbered those cutting the fee 47-to-5!

See interest yield details.

  -- Posted: Sept. 26, 2007
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Average interest yields keep dropping
ATM fees still rising
Traditional vs. online checking
Winners and losers: Certificates of deposit
Winner or loser: Mortgage shopper
Winner or loser: Home equity loans

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