Banks Charging More Fees Due to Gov't Regs

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Free checking accounts appear to have fallen victim to the current economic times.

A new study by shows only 45 percent of bank customers have checking accounts with no monthly fees, compared to 76 percent two years ago.

Some banks will waive monthly fees if the customer has a paycheck or government benefit automatically deposited on a recurring schedule.

Banks say they've been forced to find new ways to make what they call non-interest income because of government's regulations.

"If you want to have your checks honored.if they're bounced, then you're going to pay a fee for that. If you want to use a debit card, you're going to pay a fee for that," said Frank Keating, the chief executive officer of the American Banks Association.

Starting in October, the fees banks can collect from merchants whenever customers swipe their debit cards will be capped. Such fees generated an estimated $19 billion in revenue for banks in 2009.

Banks are also experimenting with ways to make new revenue. For instance, Wells Fargo and Chase are testing a $3 monthly charge for a debit card on a checking account.

The findings were based on a study of banks in the country's biggest markets last month.

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