DENVER (CBS4) – Bank of America, as well as several other major banks, have been testing the waters with new bank fees. A debit card fee seems to be on hold for now, but banks will be looking to increase their revenue with other fee changes.

Some experts say the day of the free checking account is over. CBS4 money saver Suzanne McCarroll went searching for the best deals on banking.

“ATM fees definitely annoy me because it’s my money,” exclaimed one frustrated bank customer.

It’s a common complaint among all bank customers. Banks have been raising and adding fees to boost revenue in the wake of federal legislation that has trimmed some of their income on basic accounts.

Debit card fees have been the most recent and controversial proposals, and now most big banks are backing away from those plans. ATM fees have long been in effect, but savvy customers can still find an account that doesn’t charge anything to use the ATM.

“It’s always been stupid to pay for those services because we have great providers who will provide those same services for no fees in some cases or very nominal fees,” said certified financial planner DeDe Jones.

McCarroll compared basic checking accounts to find out which ones had fewer fees. CBS4 looked at more than 20 national, local, and online banks as well as local credit unions. CBS4 looked at overdraft fees, ATM fees, checking fees, transaction fees and minimum balance requirements. Below is a look at the entire list of accounts that we compared.

“I adore credit unions for a variety of reasons. They are locally-owned, they’re there to serve the community, and they’re non-profits,” Jones told CBS4.

LINK: View A Bank By Bank Fee Comparison

CBS4 found credit unions are a good deal with fewer and sometimes cheaper fees. But credit unions have eligibility requirements — only certain people can open accounts with them. Among the largest credit unions in Colorado, CBS4 found Bellco Credit Union has the loosest eligibility requirements. Its Free Checking account has no minimal balance, no maintenance fees, and no added ATM charges.

McCarroll talked to bank customers who say they’re very loyal to their credit union, “Fewer fees, more humble, they know who I am. There’s none of that at the big national banks.”

Among national banks, Citibank’s Basic Checking requires no minimum balance and no debit card fees, but it does charge an $8 monthly maintenance fee and $2 for out-of-network ATM transactions.

Among the biggest local banks CBS4 found Guaranty Bank and Trust’s Completely Free Checking is a good deal. It has no monthly balance requirement, no maintenance fee, and no transaction fee. It does charge $1 for out-of-network transactions.

Online banks don’t have to pay for bricks and mortar locations and often pass that savings on to customers. CBS4 found some of the best checking deals on the Internet. ING Direct offers interest on all its accounts. The Electric Orange Checking account has no minimum balance requirement, no maintenance fees, and no ATM fees.

When it comes to getting the most out of your checking account it pays to be your own best advocate. First you need to decide what kind of banking customer you are going to be.

“How often do you use ATMs? Do you like the in-person customer service in local branches? Are you planning on taking out loans? Do you overdraft your account often?” explained Jenifer Waller of the Colorado Banking Association.

All of these factors will affect the fees you pay. You should also research the fees your bank charges. Most banks don’t offer an easy-to-read table of charges; you need to find the fees in the fine print. CBS4 found a lot of the information online, but then called each of the institutions to get the full fee information.

To minimize the fees you pay, most experts agree that you need to keep a close eye on the requirements of your account.

— Don’t go under the minimum balance.

— Avoid statement fees, by getting online information.

— Bundle your accounts in one bank.

— Use in-network ATMs.

— Keep track of your transactions to avoid going over the limit.

— Sign up for direct deposit

If your bank does impose a fee you don’t like, you still have options.

— Ask for a waiver

— Consider using cash

– Go back to writing checks

— Try paying with your credit card then paying off the charge immediately

— Find a new bank.

–Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith


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