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Tackling Record-High ATM and Checking Account Fees

Bank charges have hit all-time highs. Free checking accounts have all but disappeared and ATM charges are up. Will you switch banks?

Has your bank raised fees on checking accounts and ATM transactions?

If so, you're not alone.

A survey by the trade industry group Bankrate.com found that "almost every checking fee we follow went up, with some bank fees rising 25 percent or more."

Free checking accounts are quickly disappearing. Bankrate found that just 39 percent of noninterest checking accounts are free of charge to all customers — down from 45 percent last year and a peak of 76 percent in 2009.

The same group said poll results suggest that 72 percent of Americans would consider switching banks if their financial institution raised its fees. That figure was 64 percent in March 2011.

A fee revolt swept the nation at the end of 2011 when a grassroots campaign — Move Our Money — persuaded many Americans to move their money from big banks to community banks or credit unions. Locally, we saw that campaign make it's way here with the Occupy Milwaukee movement. from the once quiet crowd as they began marching down Michigan Avenue. 

One way to explore whether or not it's time to change banks is to use online comparison tools, such as FindABetterBank.com or through BankRate.com's comparison charts.

Fees at Major Banks in the Port Washington, Saukville area

Bank Min. Balance to Open Min. Balance to Avoid Fees Monthly Fees Insufficient Funds Fee Fee at Other ATMs Associated Bank $100 $0 $13 $35 $2 Port Washington State Bank $25

No balance, but
direct deposit or loan pay required

$0 $32 No fees Cornerstone Community Bank $0 $0 $0 $30 $0 US Bank $25 $1,500 or direct
deposit of more than $500/month $8.95 $33 $2.50 M&I Bank, Harris Bank $100 $1,000 or deposits of more than $500/month $7 $35 $2 North Shore Bank $50 $750 or direct deposit $4.95 $35 $2 Bank Mutual $50-$100  
none-fee always applied
$8.95 $35 $2 Tri City Bank $50
$0 $0 $30 $1

While many of these local banks have monthly fees, most offer ways to offset those fees, such as direct deposit or minimum balances. 

Have you recognized a rise in ATM and checking fees? Are you doing anything about it, like switching banks? Share your experience in the comments, and any tips for avoiding extra charges.

Greg Huegerich September 27, 2012 at 03:05 PM
I swapped out from M&I to Kohler CU 2 years ago in response to their updated fee schedule and have really enjoyed the change. I've had no drop off in my ability to access my account, make online payments, etc. Bonus for joining the CU? Discounted ticket prices for the Zoo, Great America, and Mt Olympus. Subtle but really cool change for joining the CU? A whole lot less paperwork. The process of depositing or withdrawing money can be done without filling out manual paper slips if you know your account number.
Robert B. September 27, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I've been a member of Kohler Credit Union since they built the branch in Saukville. No complaints.
sigmund kolatzki September 27, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Kohler Credit Union - by far the most consumer friendly bank in Ozaukee County.
Lyssa Beyer (Editor) September 27, 2012 at 04:39 PM
I have an account at Landmark Credit Union. It's a bit of a drive, but they offer a 7.5% interest rate on checking accounts, on up to $500 of your balance ... so, that's worth $60 a year if you keep $500 in there! You just need some direct deposit in there, so I use that for my bills.
Patricia Layton September 27, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I'm also with Kohler Credit Union and couldn't be happier.

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