Avoiding bank fees

(WFLX) - When it comes to banking, what's your number one gripe?

We found bank fees are a top consumer complaint. The amounts vary from bank-to-bank.

Now, there are brand new funky fees to be on the lookout for beyond the typical charges.

For example, a flat $25 per month fee, so your bank won't charge you each time you use an out-of-network ATM machine. That's just one new fee popping up at some financial institutions.

Another one: A $5 fee to replace a missing debit card, and if you want it rushed, you'll be paying $20.

Here's one more: A charge to use a human teller!

That one stunned Dave Alexander. "I just said, 'Is it April Fool's', or what's going on?,'" he said. "They said, 'No, that's, you know, recent bank policy.'"

Dave isn't the only one fed up with fees!

In fact, our consumer investigation found the growing number of bank fees are a major complaint! "There's all different kinds of little fees, and every bank is a little bit different. Some of these fees are being put forward by big national banks, and some of them are small banks and credit unions," said Claes Bell of bankrate.com.

Some of the new fees we found banks charging: For a dollar a month, you can go straight to the front of the phone line, skipping other callers on hold. It could cost you another dollar if you want one of those ATM mini-statement printouts.


Well, perhaps you shouldn't be. Banks say they disclose all their fees. They're in those documents you get when you open an account, and in those disclosures that show up in the mail.

But be aware, if whatever the bank mails you regarding your checking account gets sent back, you could pay a $6 fee for that, too! "Banks are really struggling to find ways to make money off their checking deposits, so they're experimenting with new things," explained Bell.

Banks lost billions when Congress capped the amount they could charge businesses for 'debit card swipe fees'.

The American Bankers Association, or ABA, says they still need to cover costs for things like each checking account. "Some consultants estimate it's between $250 and $300 a year, and those costs have to be recovered.  The costs aren't just for providing statements and processing transactions. It's also for preventing fraud, protecting privacy," said Nessa Feddis of the ABA.

The ABA points out 59 percent of consumers pay no banks fees at all.

It adds, those who do are usually paying for convenience, just like paying to board a plane first or paying to use a hotel room mini bar.

It's a new marketing strategy. "Baby boomers apparently like an all in one fee, whereas Gen Y, Gen X, like to build their own. They want the basics, and then they'll pay extra for what they want," said Feddis.

Experts say if you don't like the fees at your bank, shop around and find a new place to put your money.

But caution here, we found some banks hit you with a $25 fee if you close an account within six months of opening it!

Dave didn't pay the teller fee and has a message for banks. "Enough is enough. I just won't be nickeled and dimed to death," he said.

The ABA says there are plenty of free checking accounts out there. For more tips on how to avoid fees check and find the right account for you, you can visit the ABA's Web site.

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