Fed Up With Checking Fees? Try a Small Bank

Check feesAmericans aren't thrilled with the way the nation's biggest banks have been piling on the fees lately, and it seems they're looking for an alternative. According to new research from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 51% of respondents to a recent online poll said they would shop for another bank if theirs slapped a fee for checking accounts on them.

Judging from the parade of news about how our big banks are doing just that and more with fees for everything from having too little money in your checking account to using another bank's ATM, that's potentially a lot of people who are shopping for a new place to park their hard-earned dollars.You do have an alternative, though. The blog Consumerist highlights an article from American Banker magazine (which you need a subscription to read), which points out that many of the smaller banks across the country don't charge a fee for checking accounts. They can do this because they don't have the huge infrastructure (or marketing budgets) to sustain the way the big boys do.

WalletPop contacted the Independent Community Bankers of America, a trade group that represents small and community banks, to find out more.

"Right now, the majority if not all of community banks are offering free checking," says Karen Tyson, vice president of communications. "We see that fees and things tend to be lower at community banks than at larger institutions," she adds.

If you're an account holder at a local bank, Tyson says, "You're dealing with an institution that treats you like a person, not a number. You'll typically get better customer service, and more responsiveness to your needs." As if all of that wasn't reason enough to flee a fee-happy bank and find a new home for your dollars, Tyson points out that patronizing a community bank means keeping your money in the community. If you want to find a small bank near where you live, work or go to school, there's a location tool on the ICBA's website.

In addition to small banks, we've also sung the praises of credit unions in the past, since they also tend to have lower and fewer fees than large banks. To find a credit union near you, check out the website of the Credit Union National Association. While credit unions are membership organizations, in many cases you only need to work, go to school or worship in a particular region to be eligible for membership.

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