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Portland, OR – New research released today by Bankrate.com highlights that ATM fees reached record average high of $2.50. Combined with the internal bank fees for using a competing banks’ ATM, many consumers can now expect to pay up to $4.07, a record increase of 7%, each time they withdraw money.
“This report confirms what consumers already know – bank fees are increasing and free checking accounts are harder to find,” said Celeste Meiffren, Consumer and Taxpayer Advocate with OSPIRG. “When big banks start charging for basic services like using your debit card, it’s time for consumers to vote with their wallets and take their business elsewhere.”
While free checking accounts are increasingly harder to find –39% are free checking accounts compared to 76% in 2009 – alternate options still exist for consumers. OSPIRG urges consumers to shop around and move their accounts to banks with better offers.
“Free market economics work both ways, and consumers have the power to influence corporate decisions,” said Meiffren. “If enough consumers demand change, more banks will lower their rates to attract new customers.”
With a little preparation, consumers can easily switch banks and avoid over-draft fees or missed reoccurring payments. Before consumers make the move, they will want to complete the following steps:
Step 1: Open a new account at a bank or credit union of your choice.
Step 2: Switch all automatic withdrawals and deposits to your new bank. These include direct salary deposits and auto bill payments.
Step 3: Write a check to yourself for the amount remaining in your old bank account and deposit it in your new account. Don't forget to figure in any outstanding checks or automatic payments since automatic withdrawals or outstanding checks can overdraw your account.
WARNING: Your account is not closed yet
Step 4: Once your account balance is at $0, call your old bank’s customer service line and let them know you would like to close your account. Have your account information ready when you call. (A bank statement should have most of the information you'll need).
To help ease the bank move, OSPIRG put together the following tips: [The full version is available online at: http://www.ospirg.org/resources/xxp/beat-high-bank-fees]
• COMPARE PRICES.
Look at your old bank statements and note what types of transactions you regularly make and evaluate other offers according to your own needs as a yardstick. Look at bankrate.com, moneyrates.com, findabetterbank.com, bankfox.com, mybanktracker.com and similar sites.
• MAKE NOISE.
Sometimes you can get a better deal at a bank just by asking for it. Many banks and credit unions offer free or lower cost checking for seniors and students.
• BANK AT A CREDIT UNION, NOT AT A BANK.
Credit unions are federally insured member-owned alternatives to commercial banks. Fees and balances are lower; interest rates on loans are better. Look at findacreditunion.com to find a credit union near you.
• BANK AT A LOCAL BANK, NOT A BIG BANK.
Smaller banks often have lower prices and better service, than faceless big banks. Bigger banks may have more of their own “free” ATMs, but smaller banks (and credit unions) often offer fee-free access to ATMs.
• CHECK OUT INTERNET BANKS.
Banks without branches often offer better deals, if you are comfortable banking over the Internet instead of walking into branches to bank. Note: Check FDIC.gov to confirm you found a federally insured bank.
• LOOK FOR OTHER FREE CHECKING OPTIONS.
Many banks offer free checking, especially if you have a regular automatic payroll or other direct deposit. Get free checking with several account relationships or even if you simply make 5 or more monthly transfers, including debits, in or out of the account.
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