As the U.S. economy is slowly recovering from the recession, banks are trying to pick up the pieces of their bankrupt laden industry. They are looking to recover the estimated $10 billion lose in revenue they received from new laws and regulations any way they can. So of course they look to us, the consumers, to assist in this. You probably didn’t notice, but most banks throughout the country are increasing fees or creating new ones in order to offset revenue losses from the 2009 Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act. The Act's main purpose was to establish fair and transparent practices relating to consumer credit plans. It basically tried to stop banks from taking advantage of consumers. So what do they do? They find new ways to take advantage of us.

Here are some of the changes many banks will be making in 2012, if they haven’t already.

Monthly minimums – Citibank’s EZ checking, which is now no longer available to new customers, requires a minimum balance of $6,000 or charges a monthly penalty fee of $15. This is an increase from last year of a minimum of $1,500 to avoid a $7.50 penalty fee. That doesn’t sound too “EZ” to me.

Overdraft fees – last year the average overdraft fee was $27.50. This year banks could be raising this as high as $45. That is a 64% increase. To avoid this, many banks allow you to set up your account on line to e-mail you a warning when your account goes lower than a certain amount you can set.

To help with both monthly minimums and avoid overdraft fees, you could consolidate your accounts with the same bank and link your savings and checking accounts to automatically pull from your savings if you overdraft. This still might not help if you’re as broke as some of the people I know and have less in your savings than they do their checking.

Card replacement – losing your card can be really annoying, especially when you start imagining the ridiculous things that the person who found/stole it could be using it for. Bank of America, which is the card I have, now charges $5 for a lost card where they charged $2 last year.

Wiring Money – Most banks allowed for free incoming money transfers as long as you had an account with them. Well – not any more. For example, TD Bank is now charging $15 for an incoming wire which was free last year.

Early closure – in order to retain customers and avoid people switching banks, some banks like PNC now charge $25 if you close your account within 6 months of opening it.

Online/Paperless – I’m sure you have seen the signs and advertisements for “go paperless!” Banks have been pushing this for a few years now to reduce costs. Well, banks like PNC are now charging $5 to have funds transferred over the phone but don’t charge anything to do it on-line. Banks may also begin charging a monthly fee if you want to continue getting paper statements.

The best thing to do is make sure you understand the fees associated with your accounts and watch your account closely for any fees the bank may charge you for. Sometimes you can get them waived just by asking. Never hurts to ask right?
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Nick Haneiko

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