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Bankrate: Decline of Free Checking Accelerates
added: 2011-09-28

Only 45% of non-interest checking accounts are free, down from 65% in 2010 and the peak of 76% just two years ago, according to's 2011 Checking Study.

"The decline of free checking is in full swing, however, savvy consumers can take advantage of an increasing amount of fee waivers, most commonly with direct deposit," said Bankrate's senior financial analyst, Greg McBride, CFA. "Ninety-two percent of noninterest accounts are either free or can become free."

Both interest and noninterest checking accounts posted big increases in monthly service fees and the balances required to avoid them. On interest accounts, the average monthly fee is $14.15, up 8.5% from $13.04 last year. The balance required to avoid the fee jumped 43.9%, to $5,587 from $3,883, though these balances are increasingly permitted to be held in other accounts and not strictly in the checking account.

On noninterest accounts, the sharp decline in free accounts means 60% more accounts now carry fees and balance requirements. The average monthly fee is $4.37, up from $2.49 last year, and the balance required to avoid it is $585, more than double the $249 from one year ago.

Debit card fees are still rare, despite recently publicized cases. Only 4% of accounts charge a point-of-sale fee when using a debit card, and less than 2% charge a monthly or annual fee for carrying a debit card.

The average ATM surcharge hit a new high for the seventh consecutive year, at $2.40, up 3% from $2.33 last year. The average fee charged by one's own financial institution for going outside the network is unchanged from last year at $1.41.

The average nonsufficient funds fee (commonly known as an overdraft or bounced check fee) set another record of $30.83, up 1% from $30.47 last year. This keeps intact a streak of increases dating back to Bankrate's first annual survey in 1998.

Source: Bank of England

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