On Thursday, Money Rates announced its bi-annual checking account fee survey, which revealed that consumers are getting a rare break from checking account fees.
According to Money Rates, the survey found that since the previous survey six months ago, service fees dropped and, the percentage of checking accounts that don’t charge these fees rose slightly during the same time period. Another bright note came for consumers as the minimum balance required to qualify for a fee waiver fell since the last survey, by $657.22 to an average of $10,812.03. Meanwhile, other banking fees have continued their years-long climb: the average overdraft fee was up by 29 cents to $32.63, ATM owners charge an average of $2.88, an increase of $0.05, when non-customers use their machines.
The survey also noted as fees climb and on occasion fall, the most dramatic difference in bank fees can be simply a matter of whether your account is in a good old fashioned branch-based account or in an online account because the latter is a far less costly way to bank. Richard Barrington, Senior Financial Analyst at Money Rates, stated:
“Any break for consumers involving monthly service fees is a big deal. Online checking accounts represent a significant opportunity to save money for ordinary customers, but there is something more to it than that. Between their lower minimums, offering a chance to avoid monthly service fees, and freeing customers from dependence on having a local branch, online banking may be the right solution for many lower-income households that have had trouble getting access to legitimate banking services.”
The Money Rates Checking Account Fee Survey also provides consumers with ideas on how to reduce banking costs:
- Look for an online account
- Do some comparison shopping
- Plan your ATM usage
- Opt out of overdraft protection
- Manage your savings and checking account balances to optimize fee waivers