Survey: Availability of No-Fee Checking Accounts Hits New Low in Second Half of 2013

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New research by reveals that no-fee checking accounts became increasingly hard to find in the latter half of 2013, and that the average amount of every category of checking account and ATM fee climbed during this period.

Monthly checking account fees now total over $150 per year. The question is, with free checking accounts still available, why would they waste $150 a year on an account with a monthly fee?

Finding a no-fee checking account isn’t as easy as it used to be, and it might be downright challenging if you are searching at the nation’s larger institutions, according to the latest Bank Fees Survey.

The survey found that checking account fees of every type – including monthly maintenance, overdraft and ATM charges – rose during the last six months of 2013. In addition, the percentage of checking accounts surveyed that charge no monthly maintenance fee – otherwise known as no-fee checking accounts – fell to an all-time survey low, with just 29 percent of the accounts landing in the no-fee checking category, down from 30 percent in the mid-2013 survey.

Large banks – those with more than $20 billion in deposits – posted higher fees than their small and medium-sized counterparts in a number of categories, and only 20 percent of the checking accounts at large banks were free of monthly maintenance fees.

Richard Barrington, CFA, senior financial analyst for, says that the trend toward higher fees at large banks may be especially harmful to consumers because of the market share these banks command.

“It is troubling that big banks have the highest fees, because they also have the most customers,” Barrington says. “It means that most bank customers are ignoring cheaper alternatives.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, online-based banks posted much lower amounts than the survey averages across all fee categories. They also offered a percentage of no-fee checking accounts that, at 63 percent, more than doubled the survey’s overall average.

Barrington says that the uptick in overall fee amounts should prompt consumers to take notice. The average monthly maintenance charge of $12.54 – up from $12.43 in the first half of 2013 – can appear more distressing when viewed as an annualized expense, he says.

“Monthly checking account fees now total over $150 per year,” Barrington says. “Most people can’t afford to throw away that kind of money. The question is, with free checking accounts still available, why would they waste $150 a year on an account with a monthly fee?”

For more details on the survey, please see the end-of-year 2013 Bank Fees Survey.

The Bank Fees Survey is updated twice a year using data on checking accounts offered by banks in the MoneyRates Index. The MoneyRates Index is a composite of more than 100 banks, including the 50 largest U.S. banks by deposit amount and a similar number of smaller banks. This sampling was constructed to be broadly representative of the general banking environment.

About has been a leading source of information on bank rates, personal finance, savings accounts and investing since 1999. The site provides the highest rates on certificates of deposit, money market accounts and high-yield savings accounts. is owned and operated by QuinStreet, Inc. (NASDAQ: QNST), one of the largest Internet marketing and media companies in the world. QuinStreet is committed to providing consumers and businesses with the information they need to research, find and select the products, services and brands that best meet their needs. The company is a leader in ethical marketing practices. For more information, please visit

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