• Banks: Getting Theirs Any Way They Can.

    If anyone's noticed, bank after bank is dispensing with their "free" checking services, in favor of accounts with a monthly service fee. One of my "free" checking accounts started charging fees a couple of months ago, while the other will start charging fees this fall. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo is testing out a $3/month fee for using their ATM/Debit cards, on top of the $2.95 most ATMs charge for withdrawals.

    The only way anyone can be exempt from these fees is if you keep a $1500 monthly average balance in the account or if you have your employer direct-deposit your paycheck into the account. In other words, you'll need a steady income stream coming into your account, so the banks can have more money on hand to lend out to other customers, since they make a bigger profit on the lending side of banking than they do on the accounts.

    In short, if you aren't making the banks money, then they're taking their pound of flesh from you in any other way they can.

    This is all coming on the heels of recently-enacted financial regulations that not only cap how much banks can charge retailers per debit card transaction, but also put an end to overdraft fees on ATM and one-time debit card transactions, among other things. And since the banks stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in such fees, they have to get their money back somehow.

    If you're the type of person who leaves $3.25 in their checking account, you might want to pad that a bit more from now on. If you use debit cards extensively, you might want to stick with cash from now on. If you're looking for somewhere to open a new checking account, try a smaller local/regional bank or a credit union.

    I just might try the credit union route. I resisted thanks to the lack of branches in my area, but with online banking, I should be just fine.