At many big banks, no more free checking - Los Angeles Times
At many big banks, no more free checking
Saying new banking rules will cost them billions of dollars a year, the big banks plan to bring back maintenance fees on basic checking accounts. The poorest will be hit the hardest.
February 04, 2011
| Los Angeles Times
Free checking, RIP. It was nice while it lasted.
Reversing a trend that began in the mid-1990s, big banks are imposing new fees on their least-profitable customers — those who want just a bare-bones checking account.
Those who can't maintain fat balances, or who don't use other services that would make them more lucrative to a bank, probably will need to cough up about $100 a year if they want to stay put.
Blame the financial crisis. As part of the reforms adopted after the banking system's near-meltdown in 2008, the federal government has made it more difficult for banks to impose credit-card late fees, debit-card overdraft penalties and other charges.
Saying the new rules will cost them billions of dollars a year, the big banks plan to bring back maintenance fees on basic checking accounts.
The country's four giant banks — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Citibank — are already phasing in the charges, and large regional banks are expected to follow suit.
The upshot: If you're not prepared to stockpile cash in a checking account, be prepared to pay a monthly fee or to take your money to a smaller bank.
Valerie Milan of Laguna Beach said Chase plans to start charging her $10 a month next week if she doesn't keep at least $1,500 in her checking account or make a deposit of $500 or more each month.
"I don't make enough to have that much in the bank all the time," Milan, 34, said as she left a Chase branch in Dana Point.
Milan will probably be able to get a better deal from smaller banks still offering free checking — but she'll have to give up access to a vast ATM network and the variety of services offered by bigger competitors.