ATM Surcharges Skyrocket – No More Free Checking?

Two recent articles have really gotten me worked up. The first is about the end of free checking. The second is about the rising cost of ATM fees. To summarize:

  • only 39% of checking accounts are free (meaning they don't charge a monthly fee or have a minimum balance)
  • the average ATM surcharge has risen to $2.50 on the ATM side and $1.50 on the customer's bank side, to a total of $4.00 per withdrawal

Both of these articles make me cringe, but NOT because of what the banks are doing. Some people read these articles and think “those banks are totally dicking over their customers!” While a good knee jerk reaction, it's wrong. Banks are businesses that must seek to maximize profits for their shareholders. So you can't fault them for trying to make as much money as they can. When I look at these headlines I think: WHAT THE HELL ARE THE CUSTOMERS THINKING?!

A long, long, time ago, in a time called the 1980s, there was no Internet (okay sure there was ARPANET and such, but the average consumer did not have the access that we do today). In this dark era, you had to use a local bank or credit union. Maybe you could do some telephone banking and banking by post, but really it only made sense to bank locally.

Fast forward to the dystopian future, THE YEAR 2012! Now we have access to the Internet and Internet banking! You are no longer constrained by time or distance. Banking can be done online, over the phone, by mail, at ATMs, in grocery stores, in Wal*Mart. You no longer have to settle for crappy banking service or fees! Here are four banks that offer fee-free checking:

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