NEW YORK -- Automated teller machine and bounced check fees are at an all-time high, according to a new study from Bankrate.com.
Bounced check fees hit a new high of $27.40, up from $27.04 in the spring 2006 edition of the survey, while ATM surcharges set a record high at $1.64, up from $1.60. The minimum balance required to avoid fees on an interest account also reached a new high at $2,660.49, up 8%. The average minimum deposit required when opening a non-interest account also increased by a notable percentage, rising 21% from $72.43 to a new high of $87.67. The average minimum balance required to open an account and earn interest shot higher from $429.76 to $615.41 since the spring survey, a 43% increase.
Bankrate's semiannual study surveys 462 accounts from the banks and thrifts in 25 large markets to find the latest trends on checking accounts and ATM fees. The study also compares checking accounts offered by online banks.
The percentage of banks with ATMs has jumped notably in the past two years, reaching the highest level yet at 91%. The good news is that the charge applied when an accountholder uses another bank's ATM declined for the second time in a row, and is now the lowest in more than four years. The average fee dipped from $1.29 to $1.25, according to Bankrate. Six banks actually reduced or eliminated the fee for a specific account, instead of a bank-wide policy. In all but one case, the account in question carries a monthly service fee of at least $10.
At online banks, the average amount required to avoid fees is $571 compared to $2,600 at traditional banks. Internet banks have always had the advantage--a rather large advantage--in the yield department and that continues to be the case, Bankrate said. The average yield at Internet banks is 2.25% compared to 0.34% at traditional banks. But unlike traditional banks, where the rising interest rate environment has had no impact on checking account yields, Internet bank yields have consistently ratcheted higher over the last two years after bottoming at 0.84% in 2004. Bounced checks will cost no matter where one banks: the average at traditional banks is $27.40 and $25.77 at Internet banks.
When it comes to the minimum balance required to open a checking account, or the minimum required to earn interest in the case of interest-bearing accounts, there are more similarities than differences between traditional banks and Internet banks. The minimum deposit accounts are higher on interest accounts, but comparable at $681 for Internet banks and $615 for traditional banks. On non-interest accounts, the balance requirements are significantly lower and equally comparable. At traditional banks, the average is $87, while Internet banks require an average of $100. --firstname.lastname@example.org