Battling Bank Fees

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 - 9:49am

Many new fees come as a surprise to customers.

Recent government regulations are forcing banks to do away with fees for some services.

Those restrictions are leading banks to find creative new things to charge for that don't violate the new rules.

Ken Kamen heads an asset management company and is the author of "Reclaim Your Nest Egg."

"Stacks of lawyers are saying we're not allowed to charge those fees," he explains. "They didn't mention anything about these areas, so let's look at how we can make fees there. To have a checking account, if you don't have a linked savings account, if you don't keep a certain balance, a lot of banks are starting to increase fees."

Citi customers, for example, now have to make at least five transactions a month on their checking account, or else they'll see an eight dollar fee.

At Bank of America, statements with check images are no longer free.

They'll cost you three dollars.

Chase customers who want to deposit a check that doesn't clear will be hit with a twelve dollar fee, up from ten.

Rewards cards are also changing, with some banks requiring larger purchases for smaller rewards.

So what can you do?

First read the fine print.

As time consuming and cumbersome as it might be, read through those bank disclosures you get in the mail to find all the new fees, interest rates and other charges.

Another option Kamen suggests is using a smaller community bank.

They often offer many of the same products, without the fees.

"Community banks will probably be the last banks to want to raise rates because it's very hard for community banks to get a customer," he explains.

Kamen says arming yourself with information is the best weapon in avoiding some of those fees.

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