A recent survey from the Consumers Union advocacy group found that the 10 largest banks in the country, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo, make it costly for customers to leave their institutions for smaller ones.
"Banks have added all sorts of fees on basic checking accounts, which has raised alarm bells," said Suzanne Martindale, staff attorney for Consumers Union. "But when you hit breaking point and want to move your money, guess what you encounter: more fees."
The survey found that the 10 largest banks charge a fee if you close an account within 90 to 180 days after opening it. BB&T and Citibank charge a $25 fee if the account is closed within 90 days, while US Bank, HSBC, and PNC Bank charge customers a $25 fee to close an account that has been open for fewer than 180 days.
Consumers Union also found that the fees really begin to add up when the banks sometimes reopen accounts after they are closed. For example, Chase reopens an account if the bank receives a deposit. Consumers Union said that could easily happen if a direct deposit isn't re-routed in a timely manner. Bank of America's policy is to reopen accounts if any activity hits the account. Once this happens, Consumers Union warns that customers can end up owing hundreds of dollars in penalty fees or even a monthly maintenance fee if a re-opened account falls below a minimum balance.
Consumers Union said none of the 10 banks will make a free same-day electronic transfer, and all charge for wire transfers or certified checks. Certified checks can cost up to $10 and wire transfers $30.
The 10 banks surveyed included Bank of America, BB&T, Chase, Citibank, HSBC, PNC, SunTrust, TD Bank, US Bank and Wells Fargo.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.