June 28, 2009
During the last twenty years, banks have offered a number of improvements in the area of being customer-friendly. The old 9 AM – 2 PM "banker's hours" are gone, replaced by a schedule that makes it easy for most people to visit when the bank is open. Automatic teller machines are ubiquitous, making it easier to obtain cash even when the banks are closed. And the debit card has made it easier than ever to pay for an item – you don't even have to write a check anymore. Such conveniences come with a price, however, and banks are charging additional fees for all sorts of services. Some of them can be quite steep, and consumers should watch how they manage the money they have in the bank.
Banks have been talking for years about how convenient it is to use an automatic teller machine. You can use one 24 hours a day and the handy machines often make it unnecessary to interact with a teller. What many banks fail to advertise, however, is that they now charge a fee for any transaction that involves a teller. Most people probably wouldn't care to pay a $3 fee to walk into a bank to deposit a check, but since many banks charge such a fee, consumers should check their bank statements carefully. Automatic teller machines are certainly convenient, but their use is now mandatory at some banks for no-fee transactions.
Something else consumers should watch out for is overdraft fees. Many banks now offer overdraft protection; you can use your debit card or checkbook to make purchases that exceed the balance in your account. In years past, the bank would have returned the check or denied the debit purchase; now they let the purchase go through. This comes at a cost; the average fee for an overdraft charge is $25. Should you exceed your balance by a mere $10, the $25 charge amounts to a 250% interest rate on the short-term loan of ten dollars. The overdraft business is a good one; banks nationwide earned about ten billion dollars last year on overdraft charges alone.
There are many other situations that banks use to tack on fees, and some of them aren't all that obvious. In order to make sure that your bank isn't charging you more than you'd like for your business with them, make sure that you read your statement carefully. If not, the "convenience" of banking could come at a high price.
cCopyright 2005 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including End-Your-Debt.com, a site devoted to debt consolidation and credit counseling, and HomeEquityHelp.com, a site devoted to information regarding home equity lending.