Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

With Bank Fees Spreading, Map a Strategy to Suit Your Needs

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

With Bank Fees Spreading, Map a Strategy to Suit Your Needs

Article excerpt

Banking customers beware.

Selecting the wrong automated teller machine or bank in 1996 could be hazardous to your financial health.

Publicity and gnashing of teeth have greeted the announcement of each new bank fee this year, but you shouldn't waste your time fretting. Instead, begin to set your opersonal strategy.

"The most important new bank fee is the surcharge, which basically charges us twice to use an ATM once," said Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director of the U.S. Public Research Group in Washington, D.C. "But also expect to see increased fees for use of computerized banking services, such as phoning to obtain balance information about your account."

The fact that banks are merging means an array of basic bank fees are going up around the country, Mierzwinski believes. His surveys indicate fees are higher at large institutions, particularly those owned by out-of-state holding companies.

A year ago, the spotlight was on First National Bank of Chicago after it instituted charges for using a human teller in some cases instead of an ATM or telephone banking system.g

This time around, the ATM is the culprit. The fee for making an ATM transaction at a bank other than your own could rise to more than double the current average cof $1.18. Such surcharges are expected to extend to 60 percent of all banks by 1997, a poll of banks indicates.

That's because most ATM networks in April began permitting their member financial institutions to put the surcharge on transactions. Since most banks already charge a fee when a customer uses an ATM outside of the bank's network, cthe cost of a single electronic banking transaction could be more than $2.50.

"This is moving to a free market environment that should lead to the deployment of more ATMs, giving consumers more choices between locations they can use," said Henry Mundt, president and chief executive of MasterCard/Cirrus Network, which has 260,000 ATMs. …

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