Say Farewell to Free Checking

Banks introduce monthly maintenance fees to replace lost revenue

By Ellen Goldberg
|  Friday, Jul 2, 2010  |  Updated 10:59 PM CDT
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Free Checking's Days Are Numbered

The days of free checking may be numbered.

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Free Checking's Days Are Numbered

Banks are phasing out free checking accounts.
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The days of free checking may be numbered.

"Don't be surprised, because its coming," said Ed Butowsky, a private wealth manager for high-net worth clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Butowsky said banks are slowly adding fees to their once-free checking accounts to replace revenue lost by new regulatory limits on overdraft fees.

"We have entered into the nickel-and-diming society," he said. "We are getting nickeled and dimed for water at restaurants, on airlines, everywhere you turn. Now banks are doing it, and it's just more obvious."

Wells Fargo is one of the first banks to test the waters of no free checking. As of this month, new customers must pay a monthly fee to maintain a checking account at the bank.

"I have issues with that, especially if you are already charging for ATM fees and other fees," customer David Troutman said. "It adds up over time, and it's frustrating."

There are ways to avoid the monthly fee. Wells Fargo will waive the monthly maintenance charge for customers who use direct deposit or have a Wells Fargo mortgage.

According to walletpop.com, a consumer finance site, Chase, Citibank and Regions have introduced similar monthly fees ranging from $5 to $9.50, but will also waive the charge for customers who receive direct deposit.

Bank of America is expected to roll out a new pricing model next year with a monthly fee for customers who only want a low volume checking account.

"I'll go to another bank, that's what I'll do," said Bank of America customer Michelle Salinas.

But Butowsky doesn't recommend that course of action.

"You shouldn't move around," he said. "The other banks are going to do it as well."


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