December 2013: Checking Account Fees

For this Bank Monitor Report, we researched the fees for each bank’s checking account offerings. The most transparent firms allow users to easily locate fee information, while others require prospects to contact customer service. A wide variety of fees are currently attached to checking accounts, with this report seeking to uncover both well-known fees, such as overdraft fees, and the more obscure fees, such as statement copy fees. As we investigated each firm’s checking account fees, and the means to access them, our research focused on the following charges and issues:

  • What common fees do firms attach to their checking account products, such as monthly maintenance fees, debit card fees and overdraft fees?
  • What lesser known fees are also charged to checking account products, such as reproduction fees for statement copies or fund movement fees?
  • How easily can clients access their checking account fee information?

Currently, four firms offer a basic checking account completely free of the monthly maintenance fee, with only one firm being the only traditional brick-and-mortar bank to offer this perk. Of the remaining firms, 10 offer entry-level checking accounts that offer ways for the monthly maintenance fee to be waived, most commonly through a minimum monthly balance total. While two firms offer low monthly fees for their basic checking accounts ($5 and $5.99, respectively), they do not provide customers with ways to avoid them. Beyond base-level accounts, 14 firms offer at least one higher-tier checking option. These accounts typically offer interest, exclusive services or rewards, but all carry higher fees and minimums than a standard checking account.

Over the last few years, firms have continued to increase their fee transparency, introducing “guides” or product brochures for each individual account offering. These PDF guides/brochures are currently offered by 14 Bank Monitor firms. While two firms do provide fee information for their accounts, they are not offered in a downloadable PDF. There is only one firm that does not offer a dedicated Fees page. Instead, customers must rely heavily on FAQs to find specific fee information.

Additional key findings include:

  • Two firms charge an annual fee for enrollment in Overdraft Protection.
  • Four firms don’t charge a fee for basic checking accounts for use of a third-party ATM; 71% of firms waive the ATM fee for higher-tier checking accounts.
  • $5 is the average fee for hardcopy statement and check copies and six firms charge $5 for all copies.