Banking Fees to Be Reincarnated As ‘Choices’?

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Last year, the federal government passed new laws to protect bank customers from onerous fees. So this year, the banks are testing out new ways to charge us for once-free services like checking accounts.

President Obama signed the CARD Act in 2009 to end “the days of unfair rate hikes and hidden fees,” but many financial experts surmised the banks would just dream up new fees that found some loophole. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson even predicted that free checking accounts could go “the way of the dinosaur.”

Sure enough, one month in to 2011, and the banks have already proved him right. Bank of America and Chase are taking the lead – and the headlines.

Bank of America is testing out a new program in Arizona, Georgia, and Massachusetts. Customers there now get to choose from multiple types of checking accounts. The catch? Monthly fees of $6 to $25, depending on your choice. (Customers can avoid fees by linking multiple accounts, for example.)

The Associated Press called the program “the latest in a series of moves by big banks that signal the end of free checking accounts.”

Starting Feb. 8, Chase will enroll new customers in a new “Total Checking” account, MSN reported. The catch? A $12 annual fee.

Also starting in February, the free checking accounts of former Washington Mutual customers will be replaced with fee-based accounts from JPMorgan Chase, which bought Washington Mutual in 2008. Again, to avoid the new fees, customers will have to meet certain requirements, like maintain a minimum balance, according to the Wall Street Journal.

If you bank with one of these companies or are worried your bank may be the next to institute fees and call them choices, be sure to read Stacy’s three tips for how you can still get free checking. And this one: Hate Your Bank? 3 Steps to Ditch Em.

Stacy Johnson

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