Bankrate.com has released its annual survey of the checking accounts offered by the 50 largest credit unions, and here to discuss is Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. So Greg, at banks we've seen a sharp decline in the availability of free checking accounts in recent years. What is the trend among credit unions?
Greg: While banks have significantly scaled back free checking accounts, free checking remains the rule, rather than the exception, among credit unions. 72% of the accounts surveyed are free on a standalone basis – that means no monthly fees regardless of balance or amount of activity. What's more is that nearly all accounts – 96% - are free or can become free with direct deposit, online statements, transaction activity, other accounts or balances, or some combination thereof.
That's certainly good news. What did the survey uncover in terms of the amounts consumers need to open accounts or maintain to avoid fees?
More good news. Half of the accounts surveyed have no minimum opening deposit and none of the accounts surveyed required more than $100 to open. Nearly 3-in-4 accounts had no requirement to maintain a minimum balance either. The range of monthly fees charged is the same as last year, with $2 and $5 being the most common.
Were there any similarities to the trends that we've seen in bank fees?
Greg: Many of the fees held steady from last year, such as overdraft charges and out-of-network ATM fees. But the one parallel to banks was the increase in ATM surcharges, which are assessed to non-members using the credit union's ATMs. The average surcharge jumped 10% to $2.29 and those increasing the fee outnumbered those decreasing the fee by nearly 3-to-1. Surcharging is nearly universal at both banks and credit unions.
Thanks, Greg. For more information on Bankrate.com's survey of credit union checking accounts or to search for a better checking account, please visit Bankrate.com. I'm Lucas Wysocki.