The State of Checking Accounts

A new survey takes a look at trends in banking fees and what it takes to keep a free account.

Bankrate’s 15th annual checking survey is out, offering a lot of detail about where fees have risen. It’s based on over 1,000 phone interviews across 247 financial institutions.

They found that free checking continues to decline: “Only 39% of non-interest checking accounts surveyed are available to all customers free of charge, down from 45% last year and the peak of 76% in 2009.” Where “free” is still possible, certain conditions usually apply. Those conditions keep getting worse…

  • The average monthly service fee on non-interest checking accounts is a new record of $5.48, up 25% from last year.
  • The average balance requirement to avoid the fee is $723 – up 23% from the previous record that was set last year.
  • The average monthly service fee on interest checking accounts is a new record of $14.75, up four percent from last year.
  • Avoiding the fee requires an average balance of $6,117 – up nine percent from the previous record that was set last year.

The study also broke down highest average ATM fees (Denver, $2.80) and the lowest (Minneapolis, $2.20). Average ATM fees are up for the eighth straight year, and “for the first time, 100% of the banks that surveyed charge non-customers to use their ATMs.”

Average overdraft fees are also up 1.4% from last year “to a new high of $31.26,” although the most common fee remains $35.

A majority of Americans (72%) would consider switching banks after a fee hike, according to the survey. This is especially true among households making more than $75,000.

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