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How about a little interest?

By Marcie Geffner ·
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Posted: 9 am ET

Fifty-three percent of U.S. banking customers pay no money to their bank for the services they receive, according to a recent survey of 1,000 adults by the American Bankers Association, or ABA. An additional 14 percent of those surveyed said they paid no more than $3 per month, or $36 per year, for their bank accounts.

That suggests bank accounts are free or at least a reasonably good deal for about 67 percent of the population.

It's tough to find fault with that, but bloggers are expected to quibble, so here goes:

The other 33 percent of those surveyed didn't get cheap banking services.

Five percent said they paid $7 to $9 per month, or $84 to $108 per year, and 14 percent said they paid $10 per month, or $120 a year, or more. The ABA didn't specify an upper end, but if we figured, say, $13 a month, that would add up to $156 a year.

Together, these numbers suggest that some people got a great deal, some got a so-so deal and some got a not-great deal, though perhaps those who paid more received extra services and those who got a free account used some of the ABA-recommended tips to lower their costs.

The tips:

  • Get a free account.
  • Don't use other banks' automated teller machines, or ATMs.
  • Use direct deposit to get a free account.
  • Keep a minimum balance.
  • Avoid overdraft and bounced check fees.
  • Get an e-mail or text alert if the balance drops to a certain amount.

Two of those tips -- direct deposit and minimum balance -- depend not on services received, but the amount of money in the account. And that's money the bank can use to make loans, presumably at a profit of the interest paid by the borrowers. And that's interest the bank customer today, gets very little -- if any -- of.

A free account is all well and good. But wouldn't it be nice if it came with interest on those deposits, too?

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