The Checkout

Up, Up, Up With Those Bank Fees

Death by a thousand cuts. That's sort of how bank fees feel. Two dollars here. Ten dollars there. It adds up...for banks, that is, which rely on fees for a bigger chunk of their bottom line.

Sure you could avoid many of these fees if you always use your bank's ATM, never overdraw your account and maintain the required minimum balance. But banks count on the vagaries of life such as needing cash right when you're nowhere near an ATM for your bank, or an emergency expense that leads to a bounced check.

And guess what? You're probably paying more for those situations than you were even just a few months ago.

The average bounced-check fee is now $27.40, a record high, according to the fall checking study by consumer finance Web site

The average ATM surcharge--the fee a bank charges you when you use its ATM but don't have an account with them--is now $1.64, up from $1.54 last year. In fact, since the spring, 22 banks have upped their ATM surcharges while only six reduced them.

On the positive side, more banks have stopped charging their customers fees for using another bank's ATM. But 77 percent of all banks still do so.

The irony of Bankrate's findings is that Washington-area residents are witnessing the retail banking equivalent of the long-distance telephone service wars of the '90s. They are being fought over by an ever increasing collection of banks. Branches are opening on every corner, enticing us with offers of free checking, extended hours, more ATM locations, you name it. You'd think competition would have some beneficial effect on consumers. But at times, the banking business seems strangely immune.

In fact, Washington has the highest average ATM fees in the country, according to

ATM fees have helped boost profits for Chevy Chase Bank, which has saturated the area with ATMs that hit non-Chevy Chase customers with surcharges of as much as $2.25.

ATM fees become an interesting part of the decision about whether to have an interest-bearing checking account or a non-interest bearing one. Interest-bearing accounts require you to maintain higher minimum balances--an average of $2600--to avoid, what else, fees. But Bankrate found that despite the recent rise in interest rates, the typical interest-earning checking account had a lousy average yield of .34 percent.

Compared with keeping your money in a savings or money market account, which offer five percent returns, you would miss out on more than $100 a year of interest earnings. You'd have to make at least 50 ATM withdrawals from another bank's ATM before you burn through that.

Do you ever blame yourself, even a little, when you find yourself paying an ATM surcharge you could have avoided? Or do you just curse the bank charging you under your breath?

By Annys Shin |  November 2, 2006; 9:15 AM ET Credit Issues
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I believe the amounts charged by banks to use their ATMs (when a non-customer) are atrocious. However, they are completely voluntary. If you don't want to pay them, don't use them.

I picked a bank that has only 9 branches. Close to work and home but not good for ATMs. They don't charge when using a foreign ATM. There are plenty of ATMs that don't charge you if not a customer. When I can't find one, I can use my E*Trade card. They pay you back any fees charged by the ATM owner.

If you have a vagary and need to pay the ATM fee, add that to the cost of your vagary. For planned purchases/expenses, you can easily work around ATM fees.

Posted by: Non-debtor | November 2, 2006 9:40 AM

I don't mind the fees charged by the ATM owners. Sure they are outrageous and hardly represents the cost of running the ATM but it's their ATM and until the govt says different they can charge whatever they want for its use. What I can't stand is banks that charge you for using a foreign ATM. I don't know how the banking system works but how can a bank justify foreign ATM usage fees? Are banks charged by other banks when their customers use a foreign ATM?

Posted by: Bart | November 2, 2006 10:03 AM

I love my bank, USAA, which is mostly a credit union for the military but has a bank that anyone can use. The fees are low or nonexistent, and there are no charges for using a foreign ATM-- and up to $10 a month is refunded for the other bank's ATM charges. It's a great deal. Still, I try to boycott Chevy Chase bank whenever I can.

Posted by: Neighbor | November 2, 2006 10:13 AM

Bart, banks do incur fees when their customers use foreign ATMs. When last I read, the inter-network fees charged are significantly lower than what the banks charge. The banks just get to add a little profit.

Some banks eat the fees so they can't be too high or else the bank would spend too much money.

In my opinion, the only time the government should get involved in fees is if the banks begin anti-trust discussions to keep fees up. Otherwise, let competition work.

Posted by: Non-debtor | November 2, 2006 10:17 AM

Are there gonna be ATM fees at the election? If not, I'm really confused about Che's post.

Posted by: BF | November 2, 2006 10:18 AM

"Sure you could avoid many of these fees if you always use your bank's ATM, never overdraw your account and maintain the required minimum balance."

Oh, you mean exercise a little personal responsibility. No wonder no one does it. They would rather complain again and again about their own oft repeated stupidity.

Posted by: Steve | November 2, 2006 10:26 AM


In situations where a large company screws over a consumer, there's almost always someone who wants to make the "personal responsibility" argument. Perhaps the consumer would like to exercise a little "personal responsibility" in choosing whether he banks with a bank that requires those fees or not, and yet since every bank seems to charge higher and higher overdraft/ATM/maintenance/etc. fees, he is prevented from doing so. I would agree that probably most of the time the bank user could avoid the fees, and yet is there not something ridiculous about the fact that a bank can charge their customer $28 or $38 or $40 for overdrawing their account for any amount, even if it's just the cost of a can of soda or a pack of gum? Is it mere coincidence that as banks have made it easier to overdraw your account (by encouraging widespread use of checkcards, and overdraft "protection" on more and more accounts...for a fee of course) at the same time they've made it more expensive to slip up with your account? And is it mere coincidence that all banks seem to be raising their fees, so that consumers cannot switch to another bank to avoid those fees?

Where choice is reduced, there is little merit for an argument of "personal responsibility."

Posted by: Xanthippas | November 2, 2006 10:38 AM

I have only used 1 not-my-bank ATM. It helps that my bank has tons of ATMs all over the place (not just in the D.C. area). I also don't withdraw small amounts - I get a fair amount out when I go to the ATM and then work off of that from an envelop at home.

The one time I did use a 'foreign' ATM, I was in NYC at a product show where the 85% of the vendors were not set up for credit cards. My bank was too far away so we used one of those little ones in a deli - cost me $2.00, I think.

Posted by: Rockville | November 2, 2006 10:39 AM

I still can't figure out in this day and age why people are still bouncing checks!! With electronic banking and the ability to transfer money, there's no excuse. Try budgeting better!

Posted by: Never bounced | November 2, 2006 11:06 AM

Dunno, with more and more places accepting credit cards, actually needing fast cash has been less and less of a problem. Typically, I can stop by my local bank once every few weeks, withdraw a couple of hundred at a time. I usually keep a twenty or two in my wallet and that's more than enough.

Posted by: tallbear | November 2, 2006 11:12 AM

Yes, bank fees can be outrageous, but at the same time, banks have upped those fees because they see that many people continue to make late payments, bounce checks, and otherwise cause themselves to incur fees. Sure there are situations where you can't help but pay a fee, but yes, there really should be some amount of personal responsibility brought into the picture. For example, people who just have to pull $20 from an ATM every time they turn around need to choose a bank that has plenty of ATMs, such as Chevy Chase Bank.

You do have a choice. People talked about using credit unions in a post a few weeks ago and were generally very positive. Shop around. I'm amazed that most people just don't have the brains or take the time to figure out what they're doing when they sign up for most anything, from a credit card to a bank account. Are that many people that dumb?

Posted by: Marilyn | November 2, 2006 11:24 AM

ATM and other fees, and the enormous profits they generate, explain the fear the banking industry has of WalMart. These fees--ATMs and credit cards--are the single most profitable part of retail banking. If WalMart gets a banking license and follows its business model, it will offer a system with extremely low fees to a huge potential customer base. The pressure on the rest of the industry to lower fees would be extremely high and probably irresistable. On this point, WalMart would be a huge benefit to consumers.

I don't mean to say I love WalMart. I believe it lowers wages wherever it goes as its competitors engage in a race to the bottom to compete. It knowlingly employs illegal aliens and treats its own workers like dirt.

But the banking industry has been ripping off consumers for years with ATM and credit card fees. I hope WalMart gets its federal banking license and issues its own credit cards and creates its own ATM network. I'll bet this would be more of a threat to the banking industry than any regulation.

Posted by: George | November 2, 2006 11:26 AM

I think people forget that banks instituted ATMs mostly to SAVE THEMSELVES MONEY by hiring fewer tellers. The idea that they then turn around and charge fees for the use of them is galling to me.

Posted by: Catherine | November 2, 2006 11:26 AM

When I saw Oprah's shows on "Debt Diet", I couldn't believe that the families she featured had NO IDEA how much debt they were in. Maybe they were extreme examples, but when you saw the amount of crap they wasted money on and how completely delusional they were about spending, I began to understand why and how banks can get away with charging higher and higher fees. Most of those people used their credit cards as ATMS and had no clue what was happening to them financially. And they were passing this ignorance on to their kids. We need to become more aware and to avoid and boycott banks that charge huge fees and penalize you for the smallest mistake. The government shouldn't have to save us from everything -- we need to do it ourselves.

Posted by: Len | November 2, 2006 11:32 AM

Once again it is the young and poor who pay these fees. Most middle-aged, middle-income people, if responsible, should have the $2000 or so to keep in the account, that avoids overdrafts and other fees. Also, if you have to use an ATM with a fee, get $100 or more, so it lasts a while. Paying $2 to take out $20 makes no sense, but as 1% of $200 it is no big deal. Which means, again, you should always have that much available in your account.

Posted by: Financially Responsible | November 2, 2006 12:02 PM

I've bounced things before, but it has more to do with big business being irresponsible than me. There have been a few times when different companies whether cable, telephone, or cell, have over-inflated the bill, resulting in a disaster for me that takes months if not years to recover from. One such instance was when I was somehow billed over $2000 by Sprint a few years ago for stuff that was covered under my plan, I can't remember whether it was nighttime minutes, or roaming, but regardless, I was wrongly charged. haha. I was of course mailed the bill 3 days before my automatic debit, and when I called, was given a useless run-around and finally told a day and a half later it was too late to reverse the billing process-by about 2 days- and they could issue a refund. I being just out of college had LOADS of money... ok just kidding, I was responsible, and had JUST enough to cover bills till I got paid- but not TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS! So, of course the rufund takes time, and they advised I have funds available to cover their mistake. Easy for a big company to do, but not a poor kid. So, I bounce their payment, get charged a fee, and again because they tried twice! Which as I hadn't yet gotten paid, dropped me down to below zero, where other bills were bounced and more fees were added, and oh, by the way, it wound up jacking up my interest rates and minimum payments on the card I had and responsibly used, which had the long term effect of making it very difficult to recover from! All because a company wasn't responsible! Continuously gouging me with penalties when it wasn't my fault was awful! I actually finally got the bank to refund the charges after I explained everything to them, but the damage was still already done.

Posted by: Steve | November 2, 2006 12:06 PM

Wait, no I posted that trying to reply to steve... opps... too much sugar from leftover Halloween candy. LOL

Posted by: Chris | November 2, 2006 12:12 PM

Banks have to charge higher rates, because if everyone was as responsible as me they wouldn't make a cent. In 30+ years of banking, I foolishly bounced a check in 1997 and foolishly used a foreign ATM in 2001. I realize I am lucky and have a good job, but like everything in this world it takes planning and some work to be responsible with your cash flow and maintain good credit.

Posted by: K.C. | November 2, 2006 12:16 PM

Never Bounced--I haven't bounced a check before either, but I can tell you the experience of a family member who was in college and had very little money.

The problem was when a check was deposited at an ATM didn't get credited promptly and when trying to draw on that, guess what, you get a bunch of overdraft charges, although enough money was deposited into their account.

These fees should be somewhat progressive, tied to the income level. It doesn't help a person scrapping along to be hit for big fees. The poor guy just gets further in the hole.

Maybe that's why people use these check cashing places--they get screwed once when they cash their check, rather than hit by fees when they have an overdraft.

Posted by: Mike | November 2, 2006 12:24 PM

Xanthippas said: "Where choice is reduced, there is little merit for an argument of "personal responsibility.""

How is the choice reduced? I still have the same option not to overdraw my account as I had before all of these new financial instruments. In fact, I haven't been charged an overdraft fee in the last decade. With the advent of personal financial software, there's even less of an excuse. There's a simple way to reduce the fees: Don't overdraft your account!

This is annoying me even more, because you're whining about nonsense that's completely within your control. The sad fact is that there are a lot of people out there who need help from consumer activists because they're genuinely being screwed by some business in a matter over which they have no control.

Posted by: Jon | November 2, 2006 12:31 PM

Forget Banks... Credit Unions are where it is at! Being 'Customer Owned', credit unions aren't looking to get rich off the customers, only charge what a service actually costs. I get a moderate interest rate on my checking account and much lower fees than banks. Service wise, I have been nothing but pleased with the three credit unions I have used. I switched in college 15 years ago and have never looked back...

Posted by: Credit Union Lover | November 2, 2006 12:34 PM

If I need cash and my own bank's ATMs are no where to be found, I pop on in to CVS or Giant, for example, and buy something small like a bottle water or candy bar, and get cash back. No fees, no hassle. I haven't paid ATM fees for a while, and I've never bounced a check in my life.

BF, Che is just a blog spammer. S/he posts this crap weekly on many blogs in the WaPo, and it's irritating. I wish the WaPo would deny that person posting priveleges, or at least have someoneo on the lookout ready to delete this spam when it appears. As it is, there's no way to notify the moderators of abuse like this, so we just have to deal with it by skipping over the entire entry.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | November 2, 2006 12:45 PM

Catherina said "The idea that they then turn around and charge fees for the use of them is galling to me. "

And bank have NEVER charged their own customers for using their ATMs. They charge NON-CUSTOMERS for using their ATMs. Why give a free service to a non-customer?

BTW, I find it funny that I'm normally the most critical poster when it comes to debt and fees. Today, I'm being out-criticized. :O

Posted by: Non-debtor | November 2, 2006 1:01 PM

Regarding ATM fees, as noted by another poster, banks are charged when their clients use the other bank's ATM. Plus there is the cost of the actual ATM, servicing, lease expense and so on.

If banks stop charging ATM fees (for non-customers), what incentive would remain to continue deploying them?

Bottom line, it's Economics 101. Unlike credit unions, banks are for profit and will/should behave like any other business. Consumers can change the pricing by making solid choices. That is, if you don't have the money, don't write the check.

Posted by: dm100 | November 2, 2006 1:02 PM

Mike said "The problem was when a check was deposited at an ATM didn't get credited promptly and when trying to draw on that, guess what, you get a bunch of overdraft charges, although enough money was deposited into their account."

Mike, until the check clears, you DON'T have the money in the account and you should NOT be drawing on it. It's not much different than me writing a large deposit in my register and then spending the money as if it were there.

If the money isn't there, don't spend it.

Posted by: Non-debtor | November 2, 2006 1:03 PM

I also bank at USAA. No fees for ATM use, and they refund the fees that the other bank charges you. They also have free withdrawal protection, so no bounced checks - if you bounce a check, it is covered by your savings account. The interest rates on the savings accounts are great, better than the CD rates at other banks. They also have fantastic customer service - no waiting on hold and you are always talking to a sane, helpful person. The only drawback is everything is online, on the phone, or mail deposit (they pay the postage) - so no depositing wads of cash.

Posted by: love my bank | November 2, 2006 1:14 PM

As a college student out of state, I see my peers get money out of the ATM nearly everyday, and everyday they are charged some silly little fee for taking out that $20 or $40. What boggles my mind is that the university actually encourages people to setup bank accounts nearby when they are freshman. Why in the world would you do this? As if college were not expensive enough, you have to make it easier for yourself to get to your money? My bank is not here thank goodness, because it makes me think twice before getting money out. This is also a habit people could pick up from their parents who may mindlessly get cash out every day or every week. People today just don't think about their money like they should, and then they complain when they sit down and realize that they could have easily avoided misc. charges. It IS your personal responsibility to be aware of your own money and where it is going. Otherwise, you are doing exactly what banks thought you would do: they rely on your ignorance and are getting paid for it.

Posted by: college kid | November 2, 2006 1:34 PM

I'd love to shop USAA too, but Neighbor's suggestion, USAA's banking services are not available to just anyone.

However, there are Credit Unions, and everyone around this area is eligible for membership at least one of them. Although they're not a complete haven from fees, they're more reasonable than the bigger banks, and worth shopping at.

Posted by: Would love USAA, too... | November 2, 2006 1:44 PM

The first paragraph in my law school text dealing with banking laws stated that every student should know that banking laws are written by bankers for the benefit of bankers. Never has that been more true than it is today. Over the past thirty years I have watched federal and state consumer, labor and now, personal liberty protections rolled back. The common impetus to all of these has been the influence Wall Street on members of both mainstream political parties and on all three branches of government. Pensions became 401 K's, putting working class savings formerly unaccessable funds in the hands of traders. The attempt to "privatize" Social Security is for the same purpose. It has devolved to a point that corporate "persons" are more valued than humman beings and more fuss is made over unearned income via NYSE than over earned income for the majority of workers. The Minimum Wage has stagnated for nine years while posers eyeball CNBC. America has long believed in self help. A core group aggressively helps themselves.

Posted by: M. V. Savage | November 2, 2006 1:48 PM

The only time I bounced a check was not my fault. My mortgage check, which was written for the correct amount, was keyed in by somebody at the mortgage company with the decimal point in the wrong place. Therefore, the check came back through to my bank as being written for $8,600 instead of $860! The Bank put a hold on my checking account and accused me of writing a very large check with no money to cover it! After some investigation and a copy of the original check, I discovered the mistake was with the mortgage company. I paid an overdraft fee for that but made the mortage company reimburse me for it. On another occasion, the bank listed a check on my statement as being for $77 instead of $17, a $60 difference. I balanced my checkbook to the statement and discovered it before any damage was done. Lesson here: balance your checkbook with the monthly statement and get back to the bank QUICKLY if you discover an errors. Banks do make mistakes.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | November 2, 2006 2:17 PM

College kid wrote " What boggles my mind is that the university actually encourages people to setup bank accounts nearby when they are freshman. Why in the world would you do this? As if college were not expensive enough, you have to make it easier for yourself to get to your money? "

Um, it's cheaper if your account were local (no foreign ATM fees, easy to deposit or cash checks, etc.) Sounds to me like your college was teaching financial responsibility.

Posted by: Non-debtor | November 2, 2006 2:22 PM

I worked for a bank for 10 years. Let me tell you that there is almost *NOTHING* a bank does that is not specifically designed to make more money for the bank. Unless you have so much money that you can afford to pay any fees they throw at you, the bank will not give you a break on anything. If you have the money and can afford the fees, they'll let you do whatever you want without charges. They are a bunch of crooks. The kind of people that say that others should exercise personal responsibility and budget themselves are usually the people that have money and don't get charged by the bank for anything. Oh, and by the way, since I stopped working at the bank, I now make enough money that I have not bounced a check in the 9 years since I worked there. When I worked there, I bounced checks semi-frequently because I never had any money.

Posted by: fft5305 | November 2, 2006 2:24 PM

Pensions were always in the hands of traders, it's just that you were guaranteed a certain amount from your company (defined benefit) and the rest of the gain or loss went to your company. But the traders were doing well either way.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 2, 2006 2:25 PM

to Non-debtor:

how is my college teaching financial responsibility if it encourages people to access their money easily? It's not cheaper if you constantly take money out of your bank account simply because it's local.

Posted by: college kid | November 2, 2006 2:46 PM

The reason banks charge for human mistakes is that, by and large, humans are imperfect and make lots of mistakes. The banks see human nature and its imperfections as a way to make more money. As long as the bank is upfront with their policies on fees and the like, no one can complain (except for those who have been the victim of an entry error or some such on the part of the bank, of course). Banks are a business. They are out to make money, not friends. If you don't want to pay the fees, don't screw up.

And I'm not one of those who "always have enough to cover for the error." I have definitely paid $34 for an overdraft that I didn't think I would incur: charging a 12-pack of sodas thinking I had enough but didn't, charging on a Thursday night when my direct deposit was to go in at midnight, etc etc. I've made stupid decisions like everyone else, and I complain at the time, but in the end I know it was just my poor planning that caused the problem.

Posted by: Mona | November 2, 2006 3:01 PM

College kid, if you kept your account in your bank and there were no local branches or ATMs, it would cost you about $2-$5 each and every time you got money from the ATM (adding fee from the ATM to fees your bank might charge).

If you were to open an account at a bank close to your college, you would be able to access your money at a cost of $0.

Easy access to money exists - no matter where your bank is located. ATMs are everywhere. Easy and CHEAP access to your money is not so prevalent.

Those who take out money often will take out money whether or not there are fees. Others will take out infrequently even if there aren't fees. If all that keeps you from taking out and spending your money is a $2-$5 ATM fee, then you have no self-control.

Further, having a free ATM close by is financially better. Why take out $100 to last you the week - not earning interest - when you can take out $20 at a time (assuming no fees) and earn interest on the amount still in the bank.

Posted by: Non-debtor | November 2, 2006 3:23 PM

College kid,
I'd rather those students be spending money they actually HAVE, as opposed to racking up debts by spending money they actually DON'T HAVE (credit cards...)

So when account balance hits zero, the spending spree is done till next payday (or parental deposit, etc.)

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | November 2, 2006 3:24 PM

If you can't use USAA, try Umbrellabank. You have to mail checks in, and obviously can't deposit cash, but it has low minimums and refund surcharges. Plus, they have very high money market rates on relatively low (for money market) minimum balances.

As with other consumer products, shop wisely. If I set up a lemonade stand and charged $10 per cup, would you be crying about it, and suggesting that the government should stop me from charging $10? No, you'd go to another lemonade stand that charge 50 cents, or you'd decide that lemonade is not so important to you.

Posted by: MG | November 2, 2006 3:39 PM

whoa guys... my main point, in keeping with the original blog, is that ATM charges are another way that forces a person to become more financially responsible, and I was only trying to apply that idea to the example of college students who are constantly being asked to sign up here, add this credit card, etc. I only mentioned the notion that it's a better idea to have your bank farther away from you (while away at college, because you may only be there for four or less years), because for some who rule by "out of sight, out of mind," it helps them not to engage in mindless spending practices. I'm not saying it's for everyone, but it's just another way for some people to think before they act: Do I REALLY need another school t-shirt? Is it worth to take out the cash and pay the ATM charge? Also, many students at this stage of their banking life do not have a large savings, so any interest they could be making on the $20 they choose to leave in the bank for another two days is quite minimal, especially because interest rates on regular checking accounts are much smaller than they used to be.

Posted by: college kid | November 2, 2006 4:08 PM

There are banks out there that not only don't charge you a fee to use a foreign ATM - they even reimburse you the fees that the ATM owner charges. I've used Nexity Bank for 6 years and been thrilled with the customer service, interest rates, and free bill pay that they offer.

Posted by: Dave | November 2, 2006 4:21 PM

We use credit for everything. I can count on one hand the number of times I need cash in a month. I don't understand why people use cash so much, unless they're not the type to pay their balance every month.

We charge everything, pay in full each month, and with our rewards points, so far have got $800 in Target gift cards this year.

Beats the heck out of paying those blasted ATM fees.

Posted by: Tim | November 2, 2006 4:30 PM

Presidential Bank currently pays 4.5 percent APY for checking accounts up to $25,000 where there is a regular automatic deposit, 2.5 percent for amounts over $25K. It has liquid savings accounts with 5.25 percent APY up to $35,000. Presidential is a small bank in Washington, MD and VA. Open a small no-fee account with another bank and cash checks there. Shop around.

Posted by: Prudent | November 2, 2006 4:47 PM

"Once again it is the young and poor who pay these fees."

No, it's not only them. It's people who pay no attention to their finances. I know people who make in excess of $70,000 per year and still bounce checks and pay silly ATM fees and then complain about it.

Anyone who is using an automatic debit to pay for something (a membership fee or what have you) is destined for trouble. Find another way to make your payment.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 2, 2006 5:01 PM

Banks are evil. Where else can you put your money? I pity the trained seals who pride themselves on personal responsibility by avoiding ATM fees.

Posted by: Not_a_horn_honker | November 2, 2006 5:04 PM

What we need are more of what Prudent (above) gave us: Cold, hard facts about which bank charges what fees. If we had that, updated instantly on-line, we could simply move our accounts to the bank with the lowest fees. Could the Washington Post provide us with this information??

I'll be retiring soon, and my credit union at work will no longer be convenient for me to get to. I'm looking for a bank or other CU to move to, and I have no idea how to get the information I want -- nay, NEED, to make an informed decision.

Posted by: Gene | November 2, 2006 5:10 PM

Not-a-horn writes, "I pity the trained seals who pride themselves on personal responsibility by avoiding ATM fees."

Oh, come now. It isn't that hard if you've done it all your life. I personally pity the people who don't have their act together and will always waste good money on fees.

Posted by: Gene | November 2, 2006 5:13 PM

I agree with Gene. I just have to shake my head at everyone out there who throws money away on charges that could have easily been avoided. If you're too busy to know how much money is in your bank account on a regular basis, maybe you should get your priorities in order.

Posted by: college kid | November 2, 2006 5:18 PM

One way I avoid ATM fees is banking with the much maligned Chevy Chase. They have ATMs everywhere. They also refund ATM fees I incur from other banks. Getting this service does requires a maintaining a large balance, but this can be in a money market or CDs. I also appreciate Chevy Chase's coin counting machines that even non CC customers can use for free -- a much better deal than the rip off coin counters in Supermarkets that charge a % fee. One disappointment I had with Chevy Chase was that they ran a credit check on me when I added a money market account to my existing checking and savings after they explicitly told me they would not. I don't like "inquiries" because they can lower credit scores, and in this case it was totally unnecessary because I already had accounts with them. Apparently, they run a credit check with each new account opened. I'm not sure if other banking institutions follow this policy, but it stinks.

Posted by: Fee Phobe | November 2, 2006 5:47 PM

I'm not sure why some people are so against these fees. You're not paying to access your own money; you're paying for convenience. A teller in 1975 wouldn't let you overdraw you account, get more cash than you owned, and certainly not at a different bank. I have a credit union, make some interest, and pay no fee on the occasion I need to get cash back when buying groceries in California with my parents, or any other debits. I also have a Chevy Chase Bank account to which I direct deposit $20 each month for random easy cash. Make the system work for you.

Posted by: jakemd | November 2, 2006 6:44 PM

College kid, I'm one of those on an out of sight, out of mind operating system. That's why I rarely have cash in my pocket. If its not there, I don't spend it :-)

Regarding real time banking fees: has something akin to this that let's you compare banks. Its how I found some good CD rates. Gene might want to poke around there. As for credit unions, google that National Credit Union Administration and visit the official site to get a list of CUs in your area.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | November 2, 2006 6:46 PM

For "Would Love USAA too"-- everyone is eligible to join the USAA bank. I am a member of the USAA bank even though I am not eligible for their other services, like insurance. The bank is separate and is open to everyone. It is an excellent option if you don't need the services of a teller.

Posted by: Neighbor | November 3, 2006 6:11 AM

I was one who was extolling the virtues of credit unions a few weeks ago. I don't understand the whole 'bouncing checks' thing. When I signed up at my credit union, they offered overdraft protection--basically, a short-term loan that went into effect if I was ever overdrawn. As it happened, I did overdraw my account--twice in the past ten years, both times for less than five dollars. The interest was a few cents. The service was free. I have heard some people say that they couldn't have that because then they would think they had even more money in their accounts and then spend it! Crazy. That's like not having bandaids in the house so you won't cut yourself.

I also use e-trade. CVS and the grocery store cash back options are convenient,too. My c.u. on a couple of occassions credited my checking account with my mortgage payment! I was delighted to see my new balance until my husband burst my bubble--"isn't that the exact amount of our mortgage payment?" TWICE this happened. Human error, even if it was submitted by computer. Haven't seen the Oprah debt diet show. Debt for me is like weight. I know EXACTLY how much I owe and EXACTLY how much I weigh!!

Posted by: jane | November 3, 2006 10:59 AM

Neighbor - I tried on-line before posting, just in case I was wrong. No go.

However, USAA, credit unions, and some of the on-line banks people have suggested are options many people can look into. Some will work, some will not.

Posted by: Would Love USAA too.. | November 3, 2006 1:46 PM



Works for any state, both federal and state chartered.

National Credit Union Administration,
equivalant to the FDIC for governing the CU's.

Posted by: Credit Unions! | November 3, 2006 2:10 PM

Not so fast on credit unions... make certain that the CU you choose has an agreement with a no-fee network like The Co-Op Network. My CU does, whereas my old CU didn't, and I can go into any 7-11 with an ATM.. which is pretty much all of them these days... and get cash with no fee from the ATM owner or my CU. My partner, on the other hand, stays with Bank of America and is often faced with empty cash machines on a Saturday night in downtown D.C. What atrocious service!

Posted by: bigolpoofter | November 6, 2006 11:42 AM

I don't see what the problem is ... I am a Democrat and get my Welfare check deposited automatically. I withdraw it immediately from the local bank 'cause it is next to the liquor store. After stocking up on supplies I party till it's gone and wait till the next check.

The 7-11 down the street is always a good way to suppliment my income until the next check ... they leave the register drawer open a lot.

Posted by: No Need | November 6, 2006 2:21 PM

Once upon a time I was a HUGE fan of USAA. I told everyone I knew about how wonderful they are. Watch out, they have grown and are large enough to stop caring about their customers. Their form letters are impersonal and do not fairly address the member. They have many incompetencies. Look for a credit union. Remember the hometown small banks. USAA is a mistake.

Posted by: Ashamed to be a USAA member | November 14, 2006 8:06 PM

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