10/30/2011 - Thinking of breaking up with your big bank? You're not alone.
Bank of America's recent move to slap customers with a $5 monthly fee to use their debit cards has unleashed a torrent of ill will against the nation's financial giants. Fed up with enriching executives and shareholders, some account holders are vowing to shift their business to smaller banks or neighborhood credit unions.
But before you march down to your branch to close your account, take a deep breath. Switching in haste could cost you if you skip the fine print or don't understand your own financial habits. Friendly teller service doesn't matter if what you really need is a nationwide ATM network. Free checking is fabulous, but not if it comes with a lot of strings.
It may sound obvious, but first check out your own bank statement or head to your bank's website. A lot of consumers have no idea what they're paying for, according to Rob Kaplan-Sherman, president of the services division at Research Intelligence Group, a Fort Washington, Penn., market research firm.
Pew Charitable Trusts analyzed 265 different checking programs offered by the 10 biggest U.S. banks and found 49 types of fees in all. Those included overdraft-protection charges that averaged $35 per transaction, as well as bounced-check penalties, ATM charges, copying fees and charges to deposit large amounts of coins. At least one bank said it would deduct fees to cover the cost of its expenses in legal disputes — regardless of the outcome.
Read the full article, Saying Goodbye to Your Bank, on the Los Angeles Times' Web site.