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Widely reported bank fee hikes an opportunity for CUs
MADISON, Wis. (9/27/12)--Credit unions got another dose of positive press--and more opportunity to tout their lower fees--while media throughout the nation reported Bankrate.com's newest study indicating that banks' fees are rising on checking accounts, ATM use and overdrafts. Many media surveyed by News Now reported that plenty of credit unions still offer free checking accounts.

And that could be an opportunity for credit unions to capitalize on the publicity, by letting their local media know that they continue to provide the best deals for consumers.

Reports were carried in a Who's Who list of media that included The Today Show, The Wall Street JournalNBC News, CNBC, ABC News, CBS News, Fox Business, Businessweek, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Street.com, Fortune, The Huffington PostSt. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Fiscal Times, The Atlanta Journal ConstitutionWCVB Boston, Sacramento Bee,  Los Angeles Times, Crain's Cleveland Business, SmartMoney.com, Biz Journals.com in a number of major cities, GoBankingRates.com,  among others.

They sported headlines like "Banks' fee increases go into overdrive" (St. Louis Post Dispatch Sept. 25), "Bank fees soar, free-checking offers decline" (NBC News Sept. 25), "It's More Expensive Than Ever to Bank in America" (Business Insider Sept. 25 ), "Checking Fees Soar Despite 2011 Consumer Backlash" (Nonprofit Quarterly Sept. 25),  and "Is the era of free checking accounts over?' (The Week Sept. 25).

All of them noted that Bankrate found significant hikes in banks' fees in its analysis of 477 checking accounts at 247 banks and thrifts. No credit unions were in the study, which  determined that the minimum balance required to avoid fees on checking accounts had risen 23% to $723 and that banks have added fees.

Many media featured a quote from Greg McBride, Bankrate.com's senior financial analyst, who said, "There are plenty of smaller community banks and credit unions that still offer free checking." Some noted that he also pointed a recent Bankrate survey that "showed that 72% of the largest credit unions still offered free checking."

NBC News in its coverage told consumers how they can avoid fees. "There is another option: move your money. Look for a financial institution--a credit union, community bank or online bank--that offers totally free checking with no requirements to qualify. Bankrate found that 72% of the largest credit unions still offer free checking."

"Checking accounts that are free on a standalone basis continue to diminish," said McBride in Bankrate's press release. "But a free checking account is still within reach of the majority of Americans, whether by getting the fee waived through direct deposit or moving to a bank or credit union that still offers free checking."

Bankrate also reported that 72% of Americans say they would consider switching checking account providers if their financial institution raised its fees. That's up from 64% in March 2011.
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