Sick of tacked-on ATM and banking maintenance fees? You’re doing it wrong: most Americans aren’t paying them at all.
According to a survey conducted by the American Bankers Association, 72% of bank customers spend $3 or less on a monthly basis in maintenance and ATM access fees, and 61% pay no fees at all. The survey, conducted annually by the ABA since 1998, involved a national sample by telephone of 1,000 adults aged 18 and up.
“The financial services marketplace remains highly competitive and consumers hold all the cards,” ABA’s senior vice president and deputy chief counsel for consumer protection and payments, Nessa Feddis, said in a press release Wednesday. “Today’s consumers have become adept at using the many options that may allow them to bank for free, whether it’s maintaining a minimum balance, opting for direct deposit or using ATMs owned by their bank.”
The low percentage of fee-payers marks a notable shift since 2009, when the annual account fees collected by U.S. banks were at an all-time high—$41.1 billion—and marked a major source of banks’ revenue. Today, account fees are down after steady growth from 1942 to 2009, and account for about $31 billion in revenue: almost 25% less than at their peak. But consumers don’t get all the credit for the shift: experts point to a 2010 Federal Reserve regulation requiring customers to opt-in to overdraft coverage that banks charge a fee for as another major catalyst.
But let’s say you’re still paying fees, or, potentially worse, don’t know what you’re paying. 8% of Americans surveyed by the ABA weren’t sure whether they were paying fees or not, and according to a survey by the Pew Charitable Trusts, most checking account users don’t understand their bank’s overdraft policies.
Feddis’ statement contains a few key tips: keep a minimum balance, use direct deposit, and avoid ATMs that don’t service your bank. The ABA has a few more: If you don’t have overdraft coverage, watch your balance—or better yet, set up text alerts to warn you when you’re getting low. Check whether your bank will offer free services if you open both a checkings and savings account with them. And, if you’re a college student, scope out whether your college has partnerships with any nearby banks.