The rising cost of banking

  • 300 dpi 3 col x 6 in / 146x152 mm / 497x518 pixels Shan Stumpf color illustration of a face silhouetted with the fine print of finance fees. The Orlando Sentinel 2004

    With BC-PFP-FEES:OR, The Orlando Sentinel by Richard Burnett

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If you don't pay attention to the small print on your checking account, it could cost you big.

Banks are raising fees on everything from ATMs to overdrafts, looking for new sources of revenue to make up for losses on troubled loans and soured investments.

For consumers, it is easier than ever to overdraw your checking account, racking up costly charges. With a swipe of a debit card, a $3 latte can quickly become a $30 latte if you don't have the cash in your account.

"People are behind and this is one of the things that is pushing them farther behind. It's another belt tightening. It's another frustration," said Jeannine Moore, spokeswoman for the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, with offices in Santa Rosa.

Large national banks have been much more aggressive than regional and community banks about raising fees and enforcing them, according to Moebs Services, a research company that tracks banks and credit unions.

But banks and credit unions, large and small alike, are raising fees.

For example:

-- Consumers paid an average $3.43 surcharge for using another bank's ATM, a 13 percent increase over a year earlier, according to a Bankrate.com study at the end of 2008.

-- Stopping payment on a check now costs $25, a 25 percent increase over a year ago, according to Moebs Services.

-- Overdraft fees are $26, a 4 percent increase from a year ago, and up 18 percent from five years ago, according to Moebs.

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