12/26/2011 - Consumer advocates are rightly pressuring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to require banks to disclose important terms on checking accounts like the monthly fee in easy-to-understand forms. JPMorgan Chase has voluntarily adopted a new, straightforward disclosure policy. Other banks that have been resisting this policy should follow Chase’s lead.
The Pew Charitable Trust recently found that banks had a staggering array of fees — as many as 54 — for such things as asking for customer assistance, online transfers or depositing large amounts in coins. Even careful consumers would have trouble finding fee information in disclosure documents that can run more than 100 pages long.
Hidden or expected fees can be disastrous for people who live paycheck to paycheck. Another Pew study of the working poor in the Los Angeles area found that more people had closed their accounts because of “unexpected or unexplained” fees than because they had lost their jobs or had very low balances. The lack of a bank account can push them into paying exorbitant check-cashing fees and make them less likely to save.
Read the full editorial, Clearer Bank Account Terms, on the New York Times' Web site.