Two major Banks announce fee increases


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Checking account fees, overdraft fees, ATM fees -- by themselves, they may seem small, but they add up fast.

A federal study released in 2008 found banks collected nearly $2.7 billion in service charges in one year and consumers feel the pinch.

"They go up and up and up and up," said Alfred Vargas from San Francisco.

At least two major banks have announced fee increases this summer.

Bank of America raised its monthly maintenance fees on its popular "my access checking account" to $8.95. That's a 50 percent increase and Wachovia doubled to $10 what it charges to transfer money to cover overdrafts.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimates that overdraft fees account for 74 percent of all fees banks collected.

"Bank fees have been rising steadily for the last ten years. But the gotcha part is becoming a bigger and bigger fee in the market," said Consumers Union Attorney Gail Hillebrand.

"Gotcha fees" are charges not fully disclosed in advance. That's what David Jacobs said happened to him.

"I had experiences with this bank charging me fees that they didn't tell me about and then I had to go in and talk to them," said Jacobs.

Some speculate consumers will be seeing more fee increases, as banks deal with the new regulations and the recession.

Bank of America says it's been forced to make the changes to be able to deliver a competitive product. But it also announced a three month waiver of checking account fees for those unemployed.

Wachovia says its overdraft transfer fee is significantly lower than typical overdraft fees. It believes its rates are competitive.

So far momentum has been slow in Congress to change any of this.

"There has been pending legislation on overdraft for a couple of years; it hasn't gone anywhere. We're optimistic. You have to be in this business," said Hillebrand

Under the current system, banks will usually allow your accounts to be overdrawn, and then impose hefty fees on you. A proposal now being considered by the Federal Reserve Board would allow you to opt out of that program.

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