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Banks start ‘stealth fee’ push

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Posted: 12 pm ET

After large national banks backed off debit fees, I predicted that they'd make up the difference with numerous less-visible fee hikes. Eric Dash of the New York Times writes that process is already well on its way:

Need to replace a lost debit card? Bank of America now charges $5 — or $20 for rush delivery.

Deposit money with a mobile phone? At U.S. Bancorp, it is now 50 cents a check.

Want cash wired to your account? Starting in December, that will cost $15 for each incoming domestic payment at TD Bank. Facing a reaction from an angry public and heightened scrutiny from regulators, banks are turning to all sorts of fees that fly under the radar. Everything, it seems, has a price.

This is really no surprise for anyone that's been following the banking industry. My co-bloggers and I have discussed at length all the factors putting inexorable pressure on the profitability of banks' checking divisions, including new regulations and declining loan rates. In the wake of the debit card-fee debacle, you can either believe they'll just accept running their checking accounts at a reduced profit or even a loss, or that they'll try to make that revenue up by increasing fees in ways more palatable to the public.

That's why it's so important to keep an eye on banking fee schedules and statements right now. This is a time of great change in the banking industry, and banks are going to be shaking up their pricing to try and find a sweet spot in terms of customer acceptance and profitability.

Because banks can simply take the money right out of a customer's checking account balance, the customer never has to make a conscious decision to pay it, and may not even notice. That's great for the banks, but not so great for consumers, because at the end of the year, seemingly minor bank fees can add up to hundreds of dollars.

Switching to a local bank or credit union may help address the problem, but regardless of what bank you're with, it's going to pay to watch your bank statements like a hawk for the next few months.

What do you think? Do you watch your bank statement for fees?

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15 Comments
Ruralwest
January 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm

I have to say that we made a decision to close all our bank accounts - as they say - we are done! We joined a credit union and to our benefit they can handle everything the bank has done from merchant services to debit cards - and guess what - No big fees.

Why are you waiting - the more businesses move their millions the faster these idiots will get the message. It is a pain - but that is what banks are counting on - just do it!