Know Your Bank's New Checking Fees To Avoid Getting Slammed

The first reaction to your bank instituting new fees on your “free checking” account in 2011 might be sheer, overwhelming panic, or maybe rage, indignation, or some combination thereof. But don’t be afraid, fee-haters, there are ways around extra charges to your account.

CNNMoney does a bang-up job of laying out all the ins and outs of big banks’ new rules.

Bank of America: Right now customers incur charges of $8.95 on most accounts for monthly maintenance, but can avoid those fees with at least one direct payment per month or keeping a balance of at least $1,500. But by the end of the year, a basic checking account will cost you $9 a month. Otherwise you have to enroll in “enhanced” checking, keep a balance of $5,000 across linked deposit accounts (checking, saving, investment), depost at least $2,000 a month, or use a linked credit card once a month. Fun! And if you can’t accomplish any of that, you get hit with a $15 fee.

JPMorgan Chase: Right now, customers can avoid monthly fees just by making any direct deposit in a month. Starting Feb. 8 new customers will be enrolled in Total Checking. These accounts charge a $12/month fee unless you can keep $1,500 in your balance, make $500 in monthly direct deposits, or maintain a $5,000 balance across all deposit accounts. Those with their old accounts will get a $6 monthly fee unless they can deposit $500 a month directly or make five debit card purchases.

“We don’t want to raise fees for our customers, but unfortunately regulation is forcing us to do it,” said a Chase spokesman. “And as a result, some customers might end up unbanked.”

Ya hear that? You got served and unbanked!

Citibank: In September 2009, Citibank went around charging monthly maintenance fees that sometimes reached $30. Basic checking accounts set up $8 maintenance fees if customers failed to complete at least five transactions per month. Another of their accounts charges $20 if you don’t maintain a $6,000 balance across all linked checking, savings and investment accounts.

Wells Fargo: No more free checking from Wells Fargo after last July. And $5 in fees will come your way each month unless you’ve got $1,500 in your account or deposit $250 monthly. Other accounts from Wells Fargo can come with big fees, but all of those have a way to be waived by making transfers to your savings or maintaining a higher balance.

Wachovia: They’ve still got free checking accounts but any fees there are combined with other fees from the bank, like $2 to look at images of canceled checks and $10 for using overdraft protection.

HSBC: We’ve got a peach! HSBC hasn’t instituted any new fees or changes to checking accounts in the last year. Basic accounts already receive a monthly $3 maintenance fee, however, no ifs ands or buts about it.

Your other options include using online banks or credit unions, which often offer free checking.
Slay new checking account fees [CNN]
More New Debit Card Fees Loom [Consumerist]