06/03/2011 - Long the workhorse of the financial mainstream, the checking account has undergone a radical evolution in recent months. Banks are shifting to the business model embraced by airlines, unbundling a product and adding fees on an a la carte basis for services that used to be included.
Even worse, customers might not know about all the fees they could be charged until after the fact. A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts finds that the average length of checking account disclosures is 111 pages, and there is a lack of transparency when it comes to fee information. Watchdog group U.S. PIRG reached a similar conclusion; in its research, only a slim majority of banks provided correct fee information. “In total, 23 percent did not ever give us the fee schedule. The other 20 percent gave us wrong information,” says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director.
The most visible of these new charges is a monthly maintenance fee for checking accounts, which many of the biggest national and regional banks have implemented. A growing number of banks now charge for hard copies of items like paper statements or check images, and many have rolled back perks like debit card rewards and reimbursements for using a non-network ATM. For some bare-bones accounts, there’s even a monthly fee that kicks in if the customer wants to speak to a teller.
Read the full article Why Your Checking Account Is Getting More Expensive on Time's Web site.