Free Checking Continues to Decline, New Account Fees on the Rise

by. Tom

According to a new survey from, fewer checking accounts than ever are being offered by financial institutions. According to their survey, slightly more than 30 percent of checking accounts are currently available with no maintenance fees, the lowest figure since 2009.

This new survey demonstrates part of a trend since 36.6 percent of checking accounts were offered for free in the second half of 2012. Online banks offer more free checking, with 78.95 percent reporting their checking accounts were fee free. This compared to 27.79 percent for brick and mortar institutions.

Rather than charging for checking, these same institutions are raising the rates for overdraft fees. The latest survey shows overdraft fees at an average of $31.60 in 2013 versus $30.01 in 2012.

This trend indicates that most financial institutions haven’t learned from the Bank of America debit card fee debacle of 2011. According to another study from, the average checking account has 30 fees, and most banks don’t disclose all these fees in their online applications. Granted, many of these fees are triggered by consumer behaviors, such as maintaining a minimum balance or overusing a debit card, but there are so many fees that consumers can’t keep track.

Our latest survey on emerging financial services shows that rather than risking customers’ wrath with arbitrary fees to raise revenue, there are a host of other services that consumers will gladly pay for, and if you bundle those services in the right combination, they will pay a premium. Convenience services such as mobile banking, person-to-person payments, credit score reporting, identity theft protection, and personalized couponing. What makes these worth paying more for, is they actually add tangible value; you get something concrete in return for fees as opposed to paying for a service you are used to getting for free.

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