U.S. consumers with household income of $30,000 and less a year pay an average of $31 a month in checking account fees — more than three times what Americans in other income levels pay, according to a recent financial study.
The survey, commissioned by Money and Bankrate.com, shows that people in other income brackets paid an average of $9 per month in fees ranging from overdraft to ATM charges.
The reasons for the disparity could be numerous, from people in lower-income brackets not being properly informed about the policies of respective banking institutions to a general lack of financial literacy. Whatever the case and cause, the research signifies bears out that low-income Americans often bear the brunt of fees from banks and credit unions.
Report: Low-income consumers pay the most in checking account fees
Statistics from Bankrate.com show that the average checking account holder stays with the same bank for as long as 16 years. Even those least suited to absorb unnecessary fees – the lowest earners — rarely switch banks.
Bankrate.com talked to a Virginia resident who had been with what is now SunTrust Bank for 70 years. “It’s convenient and I find that their record-keeping coincides with mine,” 92-year-old Dorcas Nelson said. “Everything you need for banking is right in that one institution.”
“It can be hard to commit to a haircut, diet or job, but it seems like the opposite is true with banking,” Bankrate.com analyst Amanda Dixon said, according to the Credit Union Times. “Being loyal to a bank is fine if you’re getting a good deal. But it’s smart to shop around because the bank you’ve used for decades may not offer the best savings rates, ATM access or mobile app.”
Money expert Clark Howard says the best banks are not banks at all. Instead of the likes of Bank of America, Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo, credit unions can offer some tremendous benefits over traditional banks.
On the matter of checking accounts, consumers also need to know that there is an affordable alternative that can save Americans of all income levels a nice chuck of change every year.
Why online banks offer some big savings
A number of online banks have altogether done away with checking fees – and that means big savings year-to-year for account holders.
By and large, many smaller banks, especially the online variety — along with credit unions — offer far better deals when it comes to checking.
Online banks don’t have nearly the overhead that traditional banks do, so they can pass those savings to their customers.
Here are three online banks to check out
Ally: This bank is online-only and features around-the-clock live customer service, which sets it apart. Not only are there no monthly fees, but you can use any Allpoint ATM in the country for free and be reimbursed up to $10 for fees charged at other banks’ ATMs. The reimbursement is good once per statement cycle.
Simple: This online-only bank has no out-of-network ATM fee and requires no minimum amount to keep the account open. We love the “Safe-to-Spend” feature that automatically factors in your upcoming bills.
Radius: This one is online-only as well and features free access to your funds at ATMs across the globe. You can also earn up to 0.9% APY (annual percentage yield).
RELATED: How to get truly free checking