November 7, 2008 in Business

PERSONAL FINANCE

 

You could be in for higher fees if you don’t keep an eye on your checking account.

Fees for bounced checks and withdrawing cash from an out-of-network ATM rose again this year, according to a survey by Bankrate.com.

The average cost of using another bank’s ATM is now $3.43 while a bounced check now costs an average of $28.95, up 2.5 percent from a year ago.

The good news is that avoiding such fees is easy.

“With 24-7 online access to your accounts, there’s really no excuse for losing track of your balance anymore,” said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst with Bankrate.com.

Other good news: more banks are offering free checking accounts.

That’s one reason the average monthly service fee on noninterest bearing checking accounts fell to $1.93, down steadily from 10 years ago when it was $5.37. That fee is only applied if you don’t maintain the minimum balance – which dropped to an average of $82.71 this year, down from $83.02 last year.

To avoid fees, an average balance of $109.26 is needed, down from $155.49 last year.

A report by the Government Accountability Office this year found 60 percent of banks offered free checking accounts in 2006. Still, many people who’ve been with their banks for a long time may not realize free checking accounts are now widely available.

Bankrate.com’s survey was based on information from 249 banks and thrifts in the nation’s 25 largest metropolitan areas.

The $3.43 average ATM fee included the surcharge levied by the ATM’s owner for nonaccount holders ($1.97) as well as the fee banks charge for using an out-of-network ATM ($1.46).

Nearly all ATMs have surcharges for nonaccount holders, according to Bankrate.com.

Associated Press


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