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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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Balance requirements on interest accounts
Not only is this fee steep, it's tough to avoid. The balance required to avoid the monthly service fee is an eye-popping $3,316.60, up 25 percent compared to last year's survey. The soaring balance requirement is nothing new, having hit a record high for three consecutive surveys. The move higher was driven by the 31 banks increasing the balance requirement against the nine banks that decreased it.

Imagine keeping more than $3,300 in a low-yielding account just to avoid fees! Even if you had that kind of money in your checking account, is it worth it? Not at a yield of 0.32 percent. Keeping $3,316.60 in an interest-bearing account at a yield of 0.32 percent earns just $10.61 in interest for the whole year! Slip up just once, and one monthly fee of $11.72 more than wipes that out. Not to mention, the interest earnings are taxable but the fees aren't deductible. Bottom line, an interest checking account requires a whole lot of sacrifice on your part, without delivering much in return.

What do we mean by sacrifice? The same $3,316.60 deposited into a high-yielding money market or savings account at 5 percent would earn more than $160 in interest over the course of a year. Keeping that money in a low-yielding checking account means leaving more than $150 in interest earnings on the table annually.

In order to get your excess cash into a higher-yielding but still readily available money market or savings account, you'll need to find a checking account without a balance requirement.

See minimum balance details.

Save with noninterest accounts
Noninterest accounts are just the place to look. The average balance requirement and monthly service fee for noninterest accounts each hit a record low in this survey. The average monthly service fee is $2.26, down from $2.52 one year ago, and the average balance required to avoid that fee is just $155.49.

But monthly service fees and balance requirements are the exception rather than the rule on noninterest accounts. A hallmark of free checking accounts is the lack of monthly service fees and balance requirements -- and 68 percent of the noninterest accounts surveyed meet that description. If you're on the hunt for a free checking account, noninterest accounts are the place to look.

  -- 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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