Survey finds Bay State banks charge varying fees for lowest-cost checking accounts
Consumers can save significant money by shopping around for best deal
BOSTON – June 26, 2012 – A survey by the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation found that Bay State consumers can save a great deal of money by shopping around for low-cost checking accounts.
The survey examined data from the state’s largest 14 banks for the cost of their least expensive checking accounts. The phone and internet survey was conducted from April to June and relied on marketing materials from the banks.
In some instances, banks charged no fees or minimum balances, while other institutions charged fees of $10 per month for their lowest cost accounts. Some banks required no minimum deposit, while others required a $25 to $100 deposit to open an account. Some of the banks required balances ranging from $100 to $1,500 to avoid a monthly maintenance fee.
(Survey results are below and complete spreadsheet is attached)
Fees charged to consumers varied greatly depending on their habits and practices. Some banks charged consumers monthly fees for using tellers rather than ATMs, while others had larger fees for receiving paper statements.
“Perhaps the number one place in which consumers need to shop around is banking,” said Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. “But consumers need to know that cost is only part of deciding what account is best for them. They also need to think about convenience, service and the availability of other financial products being offered.”
Each institution offers additional checking account options with higher monthly fees. These higher cost accounts also offer methods to avoid fees. Options include keeping combined balances of at least $2,500 and linking checking accounts to credit cards, mortgages, consumer loans or investment accounts managed by the bank. Direct deposit of paychecks can also waive a maintenance fee, with some banks requiring $2,000 to $7,500 minimum monthly deposits, while others simply require the use of the feature.
Consumers should also consider a “Basic Banking” account, a program set up by the Massachusetts Community and Banking Council. Currently, 91 banks in Massachusetts have signed on to this program.
The Basic Checking Account guidelines require initial deposits of no more than $25. Monthly maintenance fees are limited to $3 and consumers receive 15 withdrawals and eight checks per month with no additional charge. Consumers can go to www.mcbc.info/basic_banking for more information.
Undersecretary Anthony reminded consumers that the Massachusetts “18-65” law allows any person who is 65 years old or older, or 18 years old or younger, to receive a free checking and savings account at a state-charted bank. Accounts covered by the “18-65” law are not subject to minimum balance requirements, charges for deposits or withdrawals, or fees for the initial order or subsequent refills of basic checks.
Spring 2012 Bank Fee – Checking Account Survey
- Bank of America’s eBanking account costs $12/month and requires $25 to open. To avoid the monthly charge, deposits and withdrawals must be made online or at an ATM, and consumers must choose to receive online statements only. That means the single use of a teller would trigger a fee for that month. The Essentials account costs $6/month, with no way to avoid the fee, and requires a $25 initial opening deposit. A box of 50 checks costs $15.
- Boston Private Bank and Trust’s Community Reinvestment Checking account costs $3/month and there is no way to avoid the fee. A box of 150 checks costs $29.
- Brookline Bank’s AccessOne Checking has no monthly fee and requires a $25 deposit to open. The account comes with six free checks; a box of 50 checks costs $15.
- Cambridge Savings Bank’s No Fee Checking has no monthly fee and no minimum balance requirement. It has a $10 minimum deposit to open the account. A box of 200 checks costs $21.
- Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank’s Free Choice Account has no monthly fee and requires a $25 deposit to open. The account comes with one free box of 120 checks; additional boxes cost $15.
- Century Bank’s Free Checking Account has no monthly fees and requires a $1 minimum deposit to open the account. The account comes with one free box of 150 checks; additional boxes cost $15.
- Eastern Bank’s Free Checking has no monthly fee and requires a $25 deposit to open. The account comes with one free box of 150 checks; additional boxes cost $15.
- Middlesex Savings Bank’s Basic Checking costs $3/month with a $1 deposit to open an account and no way to avoid the monthly charge. The Freedom Blue account costs $10/month; monthly maintenance and ATM transaction fees on that account can be waived with a $250 average monthly balance or direct deposit of paycheck. Both accounts come with one free box of 200 checks; additional boxes cost $17.
- People’s United Bank’s Plus Checking has a $10 monthly fee and requires a $25 deposit to open. The fee can be waived by keeping a $750 average daily balance or direct deposit of paycheck. A box of 120 checks costs $22.50.
- RBS Citizens Bank’s Green Checking account costs $9.99/month with a $50 deposit to open. The monthly fee can be waived with five qualifying transactions per statement period or an average monthly balance of $1,500; qualifying transactions include simple actions such as ATM withdrawals, online bill payments, and debit card purchases. A box of 120 checks costs $24.25.
- Rockland Trust’s Free Eco Checking has no monthly fee and requires a $25 deposit to open. The account comes with 50 free checks; a box of 120 checks costs $17.95.
- Salem Five’s Free Checking has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirement. There is a $10 minimum for opening an account in person, but if you open the account online or over the phone the minimum deposit is $100. The account comes with 50 free checks; a box of 120 checks costs $14.99.
- Sovereign Bank’s Classic Banking account has a $5 monthly fee and requires a $25 deposit to open. The fee can be waived by maintaining a $500 daily average balance. A box of 120 checks costs $14.99.
- TD Bank’s TD Simple account costs $3.99/month, or $2.99/month for customers who choose online (paperless) statements only. There is no minimum deposit and no way to avoid the fee. The TD Convenience account is $15/month, or $14/month with online statements only; this fee can be waived by keeping a $100 minimum daily balance. The first box of 120 checks costs $11.95, then $20 for each additional box ordered.
The Patrick-Murray Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly. Follow the Office at its Facebook page and on Twitter, @Mass_Consumer.