MADISON, Wis. (1/25/11)--As more banks raise fees to bolster their revenue, consumers should look to credit unions for lower charges and fees, a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist told Walletpop Monday. Roughly 64% of banks offer checking accounts that don’t require a monthly fee, while 80% of credit unions do the same, Mike Schenk, CUNA vice president of economics and statistics, told the publication. The average amount paid by credit union members for all fees is less than the average amount bank customers pay, Schenk said. “In a given year, the average bank checking customer incurred $183 in total fees,” he added. “For credit union customers, that amount was less than $72.” CUNA research discovered similar disparities when it compared average car-loan rates, Schenk told Walletpop. “We’re not-for-profit and owned by our members, which gives us flexibility to absorb some of these costs and to live in an environment with slightly lower earnings,” Schenk explained. To read the article, use the link. Roughly 85% to 90% of credit unions with $20 million or more in assets that offer checking provide at least one free checking account to their members. Noninterest-bearing accounts are more prevalent than interest-bearing accounts--73% vs. 60%. And 49% of credit unions offer business checking programs, according to CUNA’s Fees Study (Michigan Monitor Jan. 24). With interest-bearing checking offerings, nearly all banks (96%) charge a monthly fee for these accounts, according to May data from RateWatch. It also reported that the median fee charged by banks is $8. Although most credit unions (58%) charge no such fee, the median fee among those that do is $5, which is $3 lower than the bank fee, said the Monitor.