Bank reform could mean more fees

By Gray Hall - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – New financial regulations put a major dent in revenue for big banks. It also provided relief to consumers from some of those unwanted fees, but banks are now searching for new ways to make money off customers. Financial expert say you do have options to fight back.

Banks made millions of dollars off customers by charging hefty fees for things like automatic overdraft protection. New laws stopped some of those lucrative practices. Now customers have more choices. There is no more automatic fee for things like overdraft protection -- you can opt-in or out.

Jay Speer, with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, says before the new regulations, some of the banking fees were like financial traps.

"For instance, you go and want to get cash out of the ATM and instead of not giving you the cash because your account is over drawn, they would just automatically give you $10 and then you may end up paying as much as $100 in fees," he said.

Banks are responding to the financial reforms -- they are looking for other ways to cash in. It means you could see fees for services that were once free -- like free checking.

Bruce Whitehurst, CEO and President of Virginia Bankers Association says it's important to stay informed about what the banks are doing.

"I hate to suggest this because it is not anything we want to do but when you get something in the mail from your bank or an email from your bank, read it," he said.

Staying informed is half the battle, consumers have another tool to fight big banks - they have a choice to do business somewhere else.

"To me, that is the way a fair market place is, everybody understands what everything costs so they can shop around and the best deal and the best bank and best credit union wins," Speer said.

Another way to fight the fees - make sure you mange your account.

"We really are in control of what fees we do and don't incur. So for example, if we never overdraft on an account, we will never pay an overdraft fee so it doesn't matter what the fee is," Whitehurst said.

While big banks are revamping ways to make money off you, financial experts say a good idea may be to check into smaller banks and credit unions. Many of them will continue to offer things like free checking to compete with the big banks.

There are several good websites out there with tips on how to avoid some of the fees. To get started, you may want to check out Center for Responsible Lending and the Federal Reserve Board Website.

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