More banks dropping free checking

More banks are adding fees, according to a More banks are adding fees, according to a new survey. These include monthly service fees on checking accounts and fees charged by an ATM operator to a non-customer. Photo Credit: iStock

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Truly free checking accounts are becoming rarer as banks add more fees to boost their profits.

Only 39 percent of noninterest checking accounts are free to all customers, according to survey results released Monday by data publisher Bankrate .com, down from 45 percent in 2011 and 76 percent in 2009.

Among other fees, the average monthly service fee on checking accounts is a record $5.48, up 25 percent from the Bankrate survey a year ago. Also, the average fee charged by an ATM operator to a non-customer rose 4 percent to a record $2.50, Bankrate said.

The survey analyzed 477 checking accounts at 247 banks and thrifts.

Consumers who practice good financial habits should still be able to avoid incurring ATM and overdraft fees, said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate. A free checking account is still within reach of most Americans, by getting the fee waived through direct deposit or by moving to a bank or credit union that still offers free checking, he said.

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