Banks find new ways to charge customer fees

LOS ANGELES As we all know, banks are in business to make money so the last thing they want to see is the bottom line get smaller. As a result consumers are already getting hit with some new types of fees.

Stevi Martin has a big heart, especially for dogs. She runs Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue. But Stevi's heart has its limits. Recently the Chatsworth resident found some new fees on her bank statement.

"When I logged on last month, all of a sudden there was a $30 monthly statement fee, and then just last week there was a $12 fee and a $2 fee," said Martin.

One of the fees was for building bonus points whenever she used her ATM card, points Martin says are no bonus at all.

"This past year I have accumulated 42 bonus points, and when I reach 650, I'll qualify for a free cup of coffee," said Martin.

Martin said in the 16 years with her bank, she has not had any fees like these. So she was not about to pay them.

Her bank did reverse the charges after she complained.

But as financial planner Brian Gilder believes, this is just the beginning of all sorts of new bank fees coming our way.

"It's going to cost more money for banks, for credit card companies, for lenders to do business," said Gilder. "What's going to happen is those costs are going to transfer to the consumer, which we are already seeing happen."

Some of the proposed changes that are expected include:

Higher minimum balances to get free checking

  • Tighter lending
  • Even higher overdraft fees
  • Fees for paper checks and monthly statements
  • Fees to see a teller in person

Gilder says bank customers need to look over their statements carefully and question any charges they're not familiar with.

"Consumers have got to take more initiative in what they're doing," said Gilder. "You can't use the excuse 'the government's going to take care of me.' You can't make the excuse, 'I'll wait till later.' The banks are going to be charging fees."

"You have to have patience. You have to have steam coming out of your ears to deal with them," said Martin.

The financial reform bill is 2300 pages long so it may take years before we know the full impact of the new law.

In the meantime consumers need to make at least one big decision with your bank by the end of this week, and that is whether you want to have overdraft protection or not. If you don't opt in then your bank will assume you don't want overdraft protection and the fees that go along with it. It's up to you.

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