Money Monday: Before New Debit Card Fees Make You Switch Banks, Read the Fine Print

Financial institutions have instituted an assortment of new charges to counteract losses imposed by new banking regulations.

Posted: 10/31/2011 08:00 AM EDT

New banking regulations went into effect on Oct. 1, limiting the fees banks can charge retailers every time customers swipe their debit cards.

 

In response, some banks are taking other measures to make up for their potential money loss. One example is Bank of America's much-criticized decision to charge their customers a monthly $5 fee for using their debit cards. Negative public reaction caused BofA to reconsider, and on Tuesday, Nov. 1, they decided to stop the fee.

 

From many of the banks’ perspective however, changes are necessary.

 

“If you’re a restaurant and you can’t charge for the soda, you’re going to charge more for the burger,” said JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

 

If you’re wondering which banks are imposing new fees, here’s a handy scorecard from Bankrate.com:

 

JPMorgan Chase: None, after testing a $3 fee in Georgia and Wisconsin, the company is reconsidering to end the fee, as announced on Friday.

 

Bank of America: A $5 monthly fee was to start on Jan. 1, but the bank announced on Tuesday that it would cancel its plans to implement the fee. 

 

Citibank: None

 

Wells Fargo: Was testing a $3 monthly fee in limited markets, but dediced to cancel their plans this week as well.

 

U.S. Bank: None

 

PNC Bank: None

 

TD Bank: None

 

HSBC North America: None

 

SunTrust Bank: $5 monthly fee starting Nov. 10

 

BB&T: None

 

Although some banks are trying to keep you as a customer by not charging for a debit card, beware that they may try and charge you in other ways.

 

Citibank, for example, is not charging for the use of a debit card, but if you want to avoid a monthly fee for checking that will increase to $10 on Dec. 9, you must have a $1,500 combined average monthly balance in your combined account, or meet certain bill-paying and depositing rules. Chase Bank has a similar policy.

 

It’s a good idea to ask your own bank about changes in your account, especially fees for services you’re accustomed to using, such as checking or using a debit card.

 

Some questions to ask when opening or moving an account:

 

What is the minimum balance required to avoid a monthly checking account fee?

 

Is direct deposit required in order for me to avoid a monthly checking account fee?

 

Are there any changes to the current policies that I should be aware?

 

If you decide to stick with your bank even though they are charging a monthly fee, there are ways to avoid the debit card fees:

 

Pay With Cash

 

The new debit card fees will only be imposed if you use your debit card. Additionally, some retailers give customers discounts for using cash because no transaction fees are involved.

 

Pay With Credit

 

Although debit card fees have been added at some banks, as a result, some credit card rewards have been amplified in some cases. For example, you can earn a $200 cash bonus as a new Chase Freedom Visa card holder if you make at least $500 in purchases in the first three months.

 

 

Ultimately, all fees can be avoided — just make sure that you’re aware of any changes that relate to your account, and follow them.

 

 

To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.

 

(Photo: Danny Moloshok/Landov)

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