Exercise Your Banking Options

Banking ExpensesWith Bank of America announcing that it will soon charge a fee for debit card use, you may be worried that your bank is next—and if so, what can you do?

According to consumer banking experts, you’ve got several choices.

  • Stay where you are, but get a better deal. Your bank may offer better terms if you link accounts, add direct deposit, or agree to certain minimum balances, says Noreen Perrotta, editor of Consumer Reports Money Adviser. But to get a better deal, you have to ask.
  • Join a credit union or a small, local bank. Smaller institutions aren’t affected in the same way by new banking regulations, and thus they’re less likely to impose sneaky new fees, says Brian Riley, senior research director at TowerGroup, a financial research and advisory firm.
  • Consider a pre-paid debit card. There are several types, says Riley: payroll debit cards (offered by an employer), general purpose, refillable cards (like the Green Dot card) and government benefit cards. These can pack fees too, warns Perrotta. Be careful.
  • Try an online bank. Ally Bank, PerkStreet Financial, ING Direct, SmartyPig—some newer institutions may offer better deals, and you may not need to leave your current bank to take advantage of a free debit card.

BOTTOM LINE: As you explore, always request a schedule of fees, says Riley. Banks have increased or added fees on many fronts, and you need to know what you’re paying.

Be accountable. Would you pay to use your debit card?