New Zealand Markets closed

Bank Fees Are Rising — Here’s How to Escape Them

Karla Bowsher

Banking fees are not only getting steeper, they are getting harder to avoid.

The only type of fee that decreased recently, overdraft fees, dropped by a whopping 1 cent. They now average $32.47 per overdraft occurrence.

Those are some of the findings of the latest Bank Fees Survey. Fortunately, the findings also suggest it is still possible to avoid checking account and ATM fees, even if the options for doing so are fewer.

But first, the depressing details of the survey, which MoneyRates conducts semiannually. The latest results are for the second half of 2014 and include:

  • Maintenance fees increased: The average of $12.87 per month is up by 18 cents compared to the first half of 2014. That’s $155.44 per year.
  • Maintenance fees were more common: Now, 74 percent of checking accounts are charged maintenance fees, which is up by 2 percent compared to the prior six months.
  • Minimum account balances increased: For a checking account to qualify for a maintenance fee waiver, the required minimum account balance now averages $5,708.76 — which is up by $268.76.
  • ATM fees increased: For customers who use an out-of-network ATM, the fee averages $1.61, up by 9 cents. For non-customers using an ATM, it’s $2.65, up by 14 cents.

So what is a customer to do?

Switch to an online bank

This could eliminate bank fees, as the study found that 63 percent of online checking accounts have no monthly fees, versus 24 percent of traditional accounts.

Even if online banking doesn’t eliminate bank fees for you, the fees typically are less than those of a traditional bank.

The study found that online banks generally have lower overdraft fees (averaging $30.18 versus $32.73 for traditional banks) and lower ATM fees (averaging 22 cents versus $1.75 for customers who use out-of-network ATMs, and $2 versus $2.67 for non-customers who use ATMs).

To learn more, check out Can An Online Only Bank Meet All of Your Banking Needs? and 5 Reasons To Move To A Web-Only Bank — And 3 Reasons You Might Not Want To.

If you decide against an online bank, consider switching to a credit union instead. Here are 9 Reasons To Love Credit Unions (And Not Big Banks).

Speaking of which…

Avoid big banks

Online banks can afford to offer lower fees — not to mention higher interest rates — because of their low overhead. Big banks are essentially the opposite.

“In general, the banks that have attracted the most deposits have the most expensive checking accounts,” MoneyRates states. “Large banks are much less likely to offer free checking than small- and medium-sized banks, and among those that do charge monthly maintenance fees, these fees are significantly more expensive at large banks.”

According to the National Information Center, the largest banks by assets are:

  1. JPMorgan Chase
  2. Bank of America
  3. CitiGroup
  4. Wells Fargo
  5. Goldman Sachs
  6. Morgan Stanley
  7. General Electric Capital Corp.
  8. U.S. Bankcorp
  9. Bank of New York Mellon
  10. PNC Financial Services Group

Don’t stop there

Money Talks News offers additional advice that can help you save.

For more tips, check out How To Get Credit Card And Bank Fees Reversed and the following video from Banking Fees Are Killing You. Here Are 14 Ways To Dodge Them .

Then tell us what kind of bank you use and what kind of fees you pay — or hopefully don’t pay — by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Watch the video of ‘Bank Fees Are Rising — Here’s How to Escape Them’ on

This article was originally published on as 'Bank Fees Are Rising — Here’s How to Escape Them'.

More from Money Talks News