Pew Says Checking Account Fees Are Still Too High & Complicated

Even though banks have had a whole year since the last time the Pew Charitable Trust looked into potentially harmful practices related to checking accounts, the latest news from Pew indicates those banks haven’t done a whole lot to improve things for consumers.

In its update to the 2010 survey of banks, Pew’s Safe Checking in the Electronic Age Project said banks continue to make consumers muck around in long, confusing documents and that we might not really be aware of the kinds of fees involved in checking accounts.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Pew is calling on anyone who can help to remedy this situation, asking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or Congress to create more protections for consumers and make it even easier for consumers to pick their banks based on easy to understand information.

Pew also thinks overdraft penalties as they are are unreasonable, and should be made proportional to how much an overdraft actually costs a bank.

And while some banks have chosen to use Pew’s model checking-account disclosure document, that spells out information for consumers simply, Pew is urging others like Bank of America and Citibank to do so as well. Those banks have said they would introduce the form in the coming months.

It wasn’t just the 10 largest banks that Pew looked at this time — they studied 12 of the largest banks as well as the 12 largest credit unions. The median length right now for account disclosures was 69 pages for banks and 31 for credit unions. That’s a lot of reading — and most people probably aren’t going to settle down and go through all of it.

Pew: Checking accounts still too complex, fees too high [Chicago Tribune]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.