They’re at it again!

Just when you thought it was safe…

In the aftermath of Bank of America’s prior attempts to raise ATM and other fees over the past year, customers across the country revolted, signed petitions, and in some cases simply took their money elsewhere and found other banks more appreciative of their business.

Well, they’re at it again, folks!
This week Bank of America announced new checking account fees designed to help replace the huge drop in revenue they suffered last year, down 29% from 2009 according to the article. Wow!

Pilot programs in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts are testing $6 to $9 monthly fees for an “Essentials” account. Other options are testing $9, $12, $15 and $25 per month charges, but allow customers a way to avoid the fees by maintaining minimum balances or using other bank services and accounts.

So what does this mean for you? First, it means that you will need to be especially vigilant as new fees are added, minimum balance requirements are changed, and any account you may have at any bank may see changes to the terms and conditions than can cost you money. Those of you who have followed this blog know that I refer to bank fees as “unconscious spending”, because a $9 monthly fee is actually a $108 annual fee. A hundred bucks! If you’re a college student with a few hundred dollars in and account that charges you a $100+ fee just to keep your money in the bank – well, you don’t need me to tell you how messed up that is!

What can you do? Shop around! Use BankRate.com to see what internet-based banks have to offer. They are FDIC insured just like their brick and mortar counterparts, but operating virtually allows them to keep fees to a minimum and still offers access to thousands of ATM’s around the country. Watch out for out of network ATM fees, and avoid banks that show high overdraft fees. That will keep your unconscious spending to a minimum and still offer the security and flexibility of a bank account.

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