The biggest news from the 2010 Checking Study is the reversal of an industrywide, nearly decade-long trend toward widespread adoption of free noninterest checking. That means many consumers are seeing monthly service fees on their banking statements for the first time since the second Bush administration.
It's hard to pinpoint the exact causes of this fee renaissance, but a wave of new government regulation is a big factor, says Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com.
He cites two regulatory changes: a new Federal Reserve rule barring banks from charging for overdraft protection unless a customer opts in, and the overhaul of financial regulation passed earlier this year. FinReg will eventually limit the interchange fee that banks charge for debit card transactions.
"It's no surprise we're seeing higher balance requirements and higher monthly service fees on the heels of this legislation that is really working to crimp these two revenue streams that banks have come to rely on," says McBride.
The study's data come from surveying the five largest banks and five largest thrifts in 25 of the nation's biggest markets. We asked those institutions about terms on one generic noninterest account and one interest-bearing account for the general consumer.