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Sneaky Bank Fees - 10 Examples from MarketWatch and a Few from Bank Deals Readers


This MarketWatch article has a useful list of "sneaky bank fees that sting unsuspecting consumers." Many of these shouldn't be a concern for those who are careful with their bank and credit card accounts. However, I have seen cases in which fees can hit even the most careful customer.

Monthly Fees

The third on the article's list is monthly fees on checking accounts. It states "Consumers should not assume their checking accounts are fee-free -- or if they are, that they will continue to be infinitum." This doesn't only apply to checking accounts. This year we've seen a few savings and money market accounts increase or add monthly fees. EverBank is one example. It raised the monthly fee on its Yield Pledge Money Market account from $4.95 to $8.95 and also raised the minimum balance to avoid this fee from $1,500 to $5,000. Another example is Amboy Direct which started a $5 monthly fee on its Premium Savings Accounts for balances under $100. What made Amboy Direct's new fee so sneaky is that they only mentioned it on the bank statement. For those who check their balances online, it's easy to forget to look at your statement, but this is one example of why it's a good idea to check your statements monthly even if you regularly check your balances online.

Fee for Rejection of an ACH Payment

The second on the article's list is a fee for when a deposit is returned such as when a check bounces. As the article states, you should only accept checks from trusted sources. A reader sent me info on a fee he received for something similar to this. It wasn't a check but an ACH transfer for payment of his credit card bill. Here's what he described:
I was just charged $39 returned unpaid payment by Chase Freedom card. I enroll my bank accounts with my Chase credit card accounts and pay monthly online. Chase seems to prefer checking accounts. There is no option for me to choose to enroll savings account. Anyhow, I always enroll my savings account with my savings account number and pay my bills monthly with no problems at all for many years.

Last week, I enroll my Citizens Bank direct savings account with Chase and pay bill with it. The payment was rejected. I called the bank. They told me that Chase requested the fund from a checking account. Since the account number did not match, they rejected the payment. I was penalized with $39 from Chase.

Another bit of good advice from the article is to always call the bank and ask if they can waive the fee. However, this can sometimes take a lot of work. The reader who sent me the above info, described what he went through to get the $39 fee from Chase waived:
[W]hen I politely asked for a one-time reverse of the charge, he bluntly denied my request. I never miss a payment and never late for my payment. He said that is the rule. Except it is the bank's mistake, otherwise, no refund, period. He told me I can call again to talk to another representative. But he is very sure that I will not get my $39 back. I am so upset.

Then I searched Consumerist web site and find a Chase executive customer service phone number and gave it a try. The lady was so nice. She listened to my complaint. She too wondered why there is no option for us to choose between checking and savings account. I suggested her to talk to her top management. Then, when I asked for the $39 charge to be reversed. She immediately concurred. And that is the happy ending.

Thanks to the reader who emailed me his experience with this fee. Have you been hit with sneaky fees? If you have, please leave a comment.

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Anonymous   |     |   Comment #1
NSTAR (Mass) is another outfit that charges $9 fee for returned ACHs. They have a strange system to accept ACH payment (has to be nine-digit account number). When my account number was 8-digit, they added "zero" randomly instead of at the beginning. When rejected, they charged $9 fee each time. I found out only at the third payment, thus was charged twice. The first $9 was waived by a nice lady. When I requested the second waiver, it was rejected, even by supervisor. Luckily, I had name of the first lady, she waived the second $9 quickly. Watch out for the NSTRS' tricky ACH system.
Curtis   |     |   Comment #2
Discover once charged me $102 in returned ACH fees because their system will attempt to retrieve the payment from your checking account up to three times. Each instance was $34, and I ended up getting only one of those refunded, so I still paid $68 in returned ACH fees.

I tell the whole story here.
Curtis   |     |   Comment #3
Oops, I had it backwards - it was my bank that charged me $102 in returned ACH fees and only gave me $34 back. Discover charged me $40 plus finance charges on top of that, but they refunded the returned item fee (I still had to pay the finance charges, which I seem to recall were minimal).
Toby   |     |   Comment #4
What I like is how some banks are now charging a dispute fee with their debit cards.

This fee is assessed for each disputed charge, so if a crook gets your card number and makes a dozen fraudulent charges, you either eat those charges or pay the bank hundreds of doolars to dispute them.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #5
I love doolars
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #6
Being a doolar myself, I's like to challenge you to a dool.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #7
There's another outrageous fee charged by VISA, namely its 1% fee for doing a transaction outside the US (even though the currency involved is the greenback). The most outrageous thing is they seem to charge the fee even if you get a refund on the card. So for a $1k purchase outside the States, I'd actually pay $1,010 in total, but when the $1k is refunded, I'd only get $990 back. So for a canceled transaction, I'd actually end up paying 2% for nothing. If your bank also charges 2% -- which is typical -- in addition to VISA's 1%, you may end up paying 6% for a potentially large underlying amount!
Bruce   |     |   Comment #8
Whilst not a bank fee per se, I lost accrued interest on a savings account when I closed it just prior to the end of a month. I was quite surprised that bank's can keep "earned" interest on a demand deposit account.
Michael Maul
Michael Maul   |     |   Comment #9
CITIZENS BANK (so you remember that name) just took advantage of me via their overdraft policies. I used my debit card on a Wednesday, Friday, and had two instant transfers to PayPal made on a Friday & Saturday. I had ample funds in my account to cover these expenses and Citizens Bank approved them at the time. On Monday I had an overdraft against my mortgage payment. That was expected and appropriate.  I went to sleep with my online account displaying a fair transaction. I wake up to find my online date changed and that I've been charged 4 ADDITIONAL OVERDRAFT FEES in the amount of $37 each. The justification on their end is that the transactions that occurred over the weekend could not be processed until the day I also had the overdraft on my mortgage, and that their policy is to pay the highest bill first. This large overdraft payment brought me into the negative and rendered the 4 small payments I made prior to that subject to overdraft due to insufficient funds. They claim that the debit transaction made on Wendesday actually wasn't finalized until 5 days later (looking into that) Money can be transferred over the weekend via computers. PayPal received full payment on the 4th and 5th. I have an email stating this. If they actually recieved that money, I find it so unethical to state that they did not based on the convenient claim that the bank somehow "fronted" me the money and payment wasn't made until a later date that cost me $150. My feeling is that my money can't be in two places at the same time. If these other companies had full payment in their accounts and I requested it to be deducted from my account, that transaction is complete, and should not be subject to the bank updating their books to show otherwise. I also have a mortgage with these people and customer service would not flex for me at all. Bad busness here. It is in fact going to cost them more in the long run. Just swiched to SEFCU.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #10
It wasn't a check but an ACH transfer for payment of his credit card bill. Here's what he described: