Checking account fees rose significantly this year and free accounts became even more rare, a new survey from Bankrate.com found, as banks look for ways to make money from retail customers.
Banks' income from checking accounts has been pinched as new regulations have crimped debit card swipe-fee charges and cut down on overdraft fee programs. At the same time, low interest rates across the board have made money sitting in bank vaults less productive.
Industry leaders predicted other fees to increase in response. Bankrate.com's survey finds evidence that they have.
- The average monthly service fee on non-interest accounts jumped 25 percent, to $5.48.
- The average minimum balance needed to avoid those service fees increased 23 percent, to $723.
- The average ATM fee increased 4 percent, to $2.50.
- The average overdraft fee increased 1 percent, to $31.26.
Free checking accounts continued to disappear this year, making up only 39 percent of non-interest accounts. That's down from 45 percent last year and 79 percent in 2009. Wells Fargo, for example, ended free checking this year to legacy Wachovia customers who still had free accounts.