Now the Forever ended, and the Free became Fee. As of February 2011, Chase customers will no longer have a free checking account. It will have a monthly fee, which will be waved under certain conditions, very similar to other big banks. And do we want to pay fees to banks for holding our money? No, we don’t.
So customers, myself included, are upset. Some even went further than just ranting, and posted the personal (office…) phone number and email of Jennifer Myhre, Chase VP, on Craigslist (if the original post goes away, a copy is here).
Chase are not alone. Apparently most of the big banks are starting to charge fees, to compensate for the upcoming regulatory changes that will reduce their earnings. Too bad the regulators didn’t include mandatory free checking with on-line service for everyone. In all of the big banks, the people who are going to pay the fees – are the people who cannot afford it. Those who can put 1500 dormant on their checking account – probably wouldn’t get hurt too much by a $8 fee. Those who live from one paycheck to another though – these are trapped.
So what are the options then?
Well, some of the big banks still offer free checking accounts. For example, the US Bank has a “Free Checking” account. Really free. Admirable.
Other options could be on-line banks (INGDirect, E*trade, CapitalOne, etc), or credit unions (some of those have membership fees, which are basically the same, so check well).
ING Direct, for example, allows opening an interest bearing checking account, with free usage of a wide ATM network (30000+ in the US). However, they don’t use paper checks (i.e.: you can’t write a check, only use electronic checks or bill pay paper checks), which may be limiting.
ETrade allow writing checks and using debit card through their brokerage account, and provide ATM fees refund for the first 5 transactions each month.
CapitalOne provide a free checking account with unlimited checks writing, debit card (up to $10/month ATM fees reimbursed) and rewards (miles per usage).
All of them allow deposits by mail or ACH deposits.
So there are alternatives. The economy is recovering, and I hope that as the banks stop failing and the consumers start earning more, the “Free Checking” trend will come back, as the banks will once again start to compete and fight over every customer, as they should be.
Your Little Advisor