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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

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

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.’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

Associated Press