Big bank fees on the rise, but you have alternatives


A new analysis from shows that fees at the big banks continue their upward spiral unabated ever since we the taxpayers bailed them out last decade. But that doesn’t mean they have you over a barrel. I’m going to explain your options.

Runaway bank fees are the new norm

BankRate’s 2015 Checking Survey finds that the average bank customer needs $6,362 on deposit to avoid monthly charges on interest-paying checking accounts. If you do get fit with a fee because you’re under balance, it will be $15.24 on average.

Using an ATM as a non-customer? You’ll pay an average of a combined $4.52 when you’re all said and done getting hit with fees from both your bank and the owner of the alien ATM you use. 

And let’s hope you don’t bounce a check. The banks raked in $2.51 billion in insufficient-funds charges this past year!

Read more: 7 ways to avoid money fights with your spouse

One of the ploys that giant banks like to use to retain customers is telling them that they can avoid the fees by signing up for multiple products and services. The idea is to create what’s called a ‘sticky,’ where you have three or more products or services through the same bank so you’ll be less inclined to fire them.

But the reality is you have so much choice in the marketplace.

Try these alternatives

For starters, look at a discount stockbroker for checking instead of at a giant bank. Wealthy people have virtually no money in the banks; it’s all in brokerage houses like these ones. Both Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments have options for fee-free checking with no account minimums.

Otherwise, you can look at the online banks like Ally and CapitalOne 360. Here are some other options in this arena too.

Finally, there is always the old standby of a credit union or small community bank. Nearly three-quarters of credit unions still offer free checking vs. only 37% of traditional big banks, according to BankRate. The only drawback with credit unions or community banks could be the lack of convenient branch locations. Visit to locate a credit union near you.


Who would be best served by a big bank? Those who want more meanness in their lives; those who enjoy waking up and being hit with fees left and right; and those who value convenient branch locations over everything else.

If you fall in the latter category, stop and ask yourself, how often you really walk into a bank? I have a credit union account and I only visited a branch one single time the whole of last year. With online access to accounts, who needs the branch?

Read more: How a penny a day can help keep poverty away

Want more money-saving advice? See our Money section.

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