Gordon Tokumatsu, Dennis Lahti
Despite legislative efforts to keep charges at a minimum, bank fees are reaching all-time highs, according to a study from Bankrate.com. Jamie Court, of Consumer Watchdog, describes double ATM fees and checking account fees as an "abuse of power," but contends customers have control. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Santa Monica for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Sept. 24, 2012.
Banking fees are reaching all-time highs despite legislative efforts to keep charges at a minimum, according to a study from Bankrate.com.
Fees are infiltrating areas of personal banking, like the checking account and ATM, that watchdog groups say many people are unaware of.
"I think most Americans don't realize that they get hit twice," said Jamie Court, of ConsumerWatchdog.org.
A bank charges on average $2.50 to use an ATM if the withdrawer does not have an account with that bank. That’s up 4 percent from last year.
And the average cost a bank charges to their customers when they use another bank's ATM is $1.57 – up 11 percent.
That makes the total someone has to pay to use an ATM at a bank where they're not a customer $4.07 per transaction. That's an increase of 7 percent, and a record.
Charging double fees at ATMs has become an industry-wide practice.
"To charge us an extra buck on the back end, in the fine print of our bank statements, and that's just an abuse of power," Court said.
Banks contend they have raised fees lately because of federal regulations on debit cards and overdraft policies that stand to cost them billions of dollars in annual revenue.
But some consumers, like college student Jordyn Crumey, say they feel like they're being "nickel and dimed."
"You have other stuff to worry about: gas, bills, stuff like that. All that stuff does add up," Crumey said.
Customers could "revolt," watchdog groups say, by threatening to leave their bank, as they did when Bank of America announced it would charge debit card fees.
Seventy-two percent of those surveyed by Bankrate.com said they would consider switching banks if it raised fees on checking accounts, up from 64 percent in March 2011.
Households with an income of $75,000 or more are the most likely to switch, at 82 percent, Bankrate said.