We have been seeing several large banks increasing their fees this year. Two examples are Bank of America and Chase Bank. Both banks have changed their checking accounts this year by increasing monthly fees and by making it more difficult to have these fees waived. We will probably see more fee increases at large banks as they adapt to the new debit card regulation.
You often will have better luck at avoiding fees at community banks and credit unions, but this isn't always the case. One example is Fairwinds Credit Union, a large Central Florida credit union. It recently posted 8 ways that you can avoid fees. It's nice to see that it's communicating how members can avoid fees. However, it's not nice to see monthly fees on its checking, savings and money market accounts unless you meet certain requirements. Most requirements are not that bad. For example, the $7.50 monthly fee on the Fair Checking can be avoided with a $500 average monthly balance. However, for savers these fees can hit you if you're not careful.
If you're always shopping for the best CD rates, you might have memberships at several credit unions. This makes it much easier to quickly jump on a CD special that pops up. Unlike a bank, you have to meet the membership qualifications to join a credit union. If you close all your accounts at a credit union, you'll have to qualify again to join the credit union in the future, and that may not be possible. If you move or a family member dies, you may no longer qualify for membership. As you keep the membership at several credit unions, you don't want to be forced to keep large balances in your accounts to avoid monthly fees.
Another potential gotcha for savers keeping memberships at several credit unions is the inactivity fee. Fairwinds like many other credit unions will hit members with monthly fees when accounts goes inactive after one year. As I mentioned yesterday, the easiest way to avoid this is to set up a regular automatic transfer from one of your active accounts. For example, you can use Ally Bank to debit $1 from your Fairwinds account every month. You have to make sure that such transfers will be consider as an "activity". I've heard reports that this ACH deposit/withdrawal doesn't always satisfy the active requirement at some banks or credit unions.
How many credit unions do you belong to? And have any of them hit you with fees? If you're charged a fee, don't forget to call and ask if they can give you a courtesy refund. They will usually give a refund if it's your first time that you were charged.