You know those pamphlets and announcements that come with your bank statement every month? If you tend to throw them away before you read them, you’ll want to change that habit.
New financial regulation legislation recently passed by Congress is having widespread impact. Credit card companies have already tacked on new fees, raised minimum payments and taken other steps to recoup some of their lost profits. But they’re not alone. Banks are adding new fees and requirements as well. Though this list isn’t exhaustive, here are some of the changes that are coming or have already been implemented:
Though most of us have grown accustomed to free checking, it could soon be a thing of the past. Several large banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and HSBC have begun charging maintenance fees for checking accounts that fall below a pre-determined balance. Fees range from $5 to as much as $50 depending on the institution and type of checking account.
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Higher Minimum Balance
In connection with free checking, some banks are raising their minimum balance requirements and charging maintenance fees on accounts that fall below that minimum.
Banks have been charging overdraft fees for years. If you don’t have enough money in your account to cover a check or debit card purchase, your account goes into the negative and a fee is charged. That’s nothing new. Now, however, the fees for overdraft protection – transferring funds from a savings or other account into your checking account to prevent your balance from going into the negative – are changing. Banks that used to offer overdraft protection for free are starting to charge for the service. Other banks that were already charging for it are raising their rates.
Credit cards and lines of credit will cost you more, too. Many banks are adding annual fees to their credit products. For example, $19 annual fee will now be charged to HSBC customers who open a line of credit. If the line of credit is used as overdraft protection, it will cost $10 for each day it’s used for that purpose.
While there are no fees planned (or at least announced) for eBanking, some banks will start charging people who are enrolled in eBanking but visit a teller rather than banking online, or who opt to receive paper statements.
With all these changes and more potentially on the way, what’s a person to do?
The best way for you to stay aware of how your bank adjusts to new regulations is to read the announcements that come with your statement. Banks are required to announce changes in fees and services to their customers, but there’s no rule about how they have to do it. So, many are including the information in that pile of advertisements that customers receive with their monthly statements.
Take time to sift through the extra papers and make sure you’re not missing anything important. If your bank is making a change that you don’t understand, or if you’re unsure how the change will affect you, call customer service and ask. Better yet, go to the bank and ask in person. And don’t leave until you have an answer that you understand.
If you feel as though your bank is planning too many additional fees, consider shopping around for another bank. Many consumer advocates (and some economists, too) believe that banks will adjust their fee schedules if enough of their customers “vote with their checkbooks” by taking their banking business elsewhere.
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