BANK FEES… (The Clandestine Pick-pocket)

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By Consumers Union on Monday, April 28th, 2008

Have you ever added up your bank fees? Wow! When I added up the bank fees on my fairly new business account, they totaled about $187 for the year. Each month the fees were a little different, some months were more, some less. I was upset with my bank and disappointed in myself that I hadn’t realized exactly what I was being charged, and it didn’t feel as if I was getting much for my $187.

I decided to call my bank. “Sandra” in customer service told me that I have a “custom account” and the average monthly service fee is $16. In order to avoid that service fee, I would have to “maintain an average balance of $40,000 otherwise there is a 20 cent charge per debit, 30 cent charge per credit and 18 cent charge per deposited item.”

I have to say that I almost fell off my chair. I explained to Sandra that I was never told about the $40,000 minimum balance, and that most people would invest that kind of money in a 401k or an interest bearing account, not in a checking account.

I could feel my blood boiling as I explained that I didn’t open the account with a large amount of cash. I told her that I felt as if I was being ripped off too and I felt I should be taking my business elsewhere. She said she could look around to see if there is a better checking account to suit my needs.

After waiting on hold for 4-5 minutes, which felt much longer, Sandra came back and told me about a basic business account with lower but still significant fees.

I wanted to know why this wasn’t offered to me when I opened the account. Sandra didn’t know, of course. I wasn’t feeling very good about keeping my money with this bank. I explained to Sandra that it isn’t right to say “I am sorry for the inconvenience when you have already charged me these high-rates.”

I wasn’t going to accept a brush-off, so Sandra put me on hold for another 2 or 3 minutes. This time, she put in a request to reverse the fees. It was sent to approval for an immediate answer, and I would know something within two hours… If I didn’t see it by the next day, then the request was declined. My perseverance resulted in a $61.12 credit… basically the difference between my high cost account and the cheaper one…

Whether you have a business or a consumer account, it pays to watch the fees and to ask for a better deal –at your own bank or somewhere else. I am still unhappy with the charges, so stay tuned as I check for other deals…and keep your eyes out for other ways your bank is charging you for your business.

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