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Consumer Reports Banking Industry Investigation Finds More Fees May Already Be On the Way

 

Is it time to switch banks? Consumer Reports offers tips on what to expect.

Consumer ReportsYonkers, NY – Consumers who say they’re furious at behemoth banks for their lending practices, fees, account requirements and various other reasons, can get ready to vent some more, says Consumer Reports latest cover story investigation.

Among the findings of the consumer organization’s investigation:

Fee hikes and tougher account requirements will probably continue, especially while the economy remains weak. For example, some banks, like Chase and PNC, are now charging a $25.00 fee even to close certain accounts.

Customers with a lot of accounts at one bank might avoid some fees, but they’re not immune. Banks may try a spectrum of charges even for good customers, including fees for paper statements and higher safe-deposit costs.

Consumers are more likely to find lower fees and better rates at community banks, larger credit unions, and online institutions. Banks are trying to make up billions in lost revenue due to the bad economy, new regulations, and in some cases perhaps even their own inefficiencies. But you don’t have to be the one to pay the price.

The complete investigative report, includes a detailed look at many of the fees big banks are charging and advice on what consumers can expect in the future, is available at www.ConsumerReports.org or on newsstands starting January 3rd, 2012. 

Should you switch banks?

Does it make sense for you to switch banks? Consumer Reports shows you what to expect and what your options are. If your bank plans to stick you with new fees or tougher account requirements, your first thought might be to find a new one. That might be your best option, but switching banks can be a hassle. So it’s important to weigh your options before making a decision to move.

  • Check the terms. If you’re facing a single new fee, see what it would take to avoid it. Increasing your account balance by a few hundred dollars or signing up for direct deposit might work.
  • Change your habits. For example, plan a weekly visit to an ATM in your bank’s network to withdraw cash instead of going out of network. And check your statements more carefully so you don’t rack up overdraft fees.
  • Try to negotiate. You might be able to get a fee waived if you tell your bank you’re thinking about moving your accounts.
  • Consider convenience. Banking is about much more than rates and fees. It’s also about the day-to-day banking experience. Does the bank have adequate ATM locations and local branches with convenient hours, or give you privileges to use out-of-network ATMs?
  • Do your homework. Check with competing banks and credit unions, starting with their websites. That’s where you’ll find complete information about rates, fees, terms, and conditions.
  • Plan your getaway. If you’ve decided that moving your money is the best solution, make the process as smooth as possible. Check to see whether your new bank offers a “switch kit” to help you streamline the process. Or you can check out Consumer Reports step-by-step guide at www.ConsumerReports.org/bankaccount.
  • Make your move. Open up the account in your new bank or credit union with a small deposit. Then you can transfer funds from your old bank to the new institution electronically. Arrange to switch over your automatic payments and deposits to the new account.
  • The grand finale. Leave at least a small amount of cash in your old account and close it once you’re sure all checks and transfers have cleared.

About Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.  Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.


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