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TRENTON, N.J. – The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance last month released the findings of its fifth annual “Consumer Guide to Bank and Credit Union Fees.” Not surprisingly, the survey turned up some interesting disparities between credit unions’ and banks’ fee structures for their checking accounts. This year’s survey includes fees charged by 166 banking institutions with 803 listed types of consumer checking accounts and 51 credit unions with 69 listed types of consumer share draft accounts. Accounts such as business checking accounts, accounts with high minimum balances of $10,000 or more, and savings accounts were excluded from the Consumer Guide because they’re not considered broad-based checking accounts. In addition, accounts designed to attract specific consumer-oriented target markets and those that offer unique services not available to everyone were also excluded from the report. Also excluded was information relating to ATMs that aren’t owned and operated by financials. Among the results collected from the banks, approximately 55% of them require $50 or less to open a checking account, and about 52% require a monthly minimum balance up to $100. Thirty-four percent require no minimum balance. In addition, 80% of banks do not impose a monthly fee as long as the minimum balance is maintained. Sixteen percent require a fee of $3 or less, without regard to the balance maintained, and 4% require fees greater than $3 regardless of the minimum balance that’s maintained by the account holder. For those banks that require a minimum balance be maintained, 75% charge service fees of up to $35, and 17% charge $3 or less. Twenty-three percent of the banks surveyed do not charge a monthly service fee or impose a per-check fee regardless of account balances. Other fees imposed by banks, such as overdraft charges, vary from $5 to $35. The most common overdraft charge is $25, and 83% impose stop-payment charges of $20 or less. Among credit unions surveyed, 43% require no minimum balance to open an account, and about 84% of all accounts require $50 or less to be opened. Survey results also showed that slightly more than half – 52% – of credit unions do not require a minimum balance be maintained in share draft accounts, and 75% require a minimum balance of $100 or less to be maintained. If the minimum balance is not maintained, credit unions’ monthly service charges range from $0 to $20, but three-quarters of the CUs surveyed do not impose service charges if the account balance falls below the minimum. Ninety-three of all credit unions do not charge monthly fees as long as minimum balances are maintained. In addition, 68% do not charge monthly or per check fees, regardless of the account balances. The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance survey also looked at banks’ and credit unions’ ATM fees for on- and off-premise ATMs owned by financials. ATMs owned by non-financials were excluded from the survey because they’re privately owned. Among the banks surveyed, 98% offer ATM services, and 95% operate their own ATMs. The total number of ATMs reported by the surveyed banks was 12,983. Ninety percent do not impose a monthly fee or annual service charge; 98% do not impose transaction fees on their customers for using their own ATMs; and 52% do not impose transaction fees on their customers when they use another financial’s ATM. Ninety-six percent of banks, however, charge non-customers for use of their ATMs. These charges range as high as $5, and the majority of non-customers asre charged between $1-$1.50 per transaction. Among CUs surveyed, 90% reported offering ATM services to their members, and 59% reported operating their own ATMs. Among those CUs that offer ATM services, 93% do not impose a monthly or annual transaction service charge, and 37% don’t impose a charge on member when they use an ATM owned by another financial. Forty-nine percent impose a surcharge on non-customers who use their ATMs, but the charges do not exceed $1.50. Commenting on the survey findings, New Jersey Credit Union League President/CEO Tom Shaughnessy said the findings demonstrate that credit unions “are providing high quality, dependable service to their members.” He added that if consumers look at the numbers, “credit unions in New Jersey offer a lot of really competitive services compared to banks.” Shaughnessy pointed out that although more banks were included in the survey than were credit unions, fewer banks offer comparable checking account benefits. “These amenities demonstrate our way of thinking,” he said. Copies of the “Consumer Guide to Bank and Credit Union Fees” are available in print format at the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance Web site, www.njdobi.org. -

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