(Newsroom America) -- The percentage of free checking accounts offered by U.S. banks continues to fall as other checking fees continue to rise, according to Bankrate.com's 15th annual checking survey.
Only 39% of non-interest checking accounts surveyed are available to all customers free of charge, down from 45% last year and the peak of 76% in 2009.
Seventy-two percent of Americans say they would consider switching checking account providers if their financial institution raised its fees on checking accounts, up from 64% in March 2011.
Higher-income households ($75,000 and up) are the most likely to switch, at 82%. Bankrate says this is especially important because these are the customers that are most desired by financial institutions.
"Checking accounts that are free on a standalone basis continue to diminish. 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," said Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate.com's senior financial analyst.
"And consumers that practice good financial habits should rarely – if ever – incur ATM and overdraft fees."
* The average ATM surcharge (the fee charged by an ATM operator to a non-customer) rose four percent to a new record of $2.50. * This is the eighth straight year that the average ATM surcharge increased. * For the first time, 100% of the banks that Bankrate.com surveyed charge non-customers to use their ATMs. * Many banks also charge their own customers for using another company's ATM; this fee jumped 11% to $1.57. * For a customer encountering both fees, the average total of $4.07 is a new record and is up nearly seven percent from last year.
Monthly Service Fees
* The average monthly service fee on non-interest checking accounts is a new record of $5.48, up 25% from last year. * The average balance requirement to avoid the fee is $723 – up 23% from the previous record that was set last year. * The average monthly service fee on interest checking accounts is a new record of $14.75, up four percent from last year. * Avoiding the fee requires an average balance of $6,117 – up nine percent from the previous record that was set last year.
More on Fee Waivers
* On top of the 39% of non-interest checking accounts that are free on a standalone basis, an additional 56% will waive the monthly fee if the accountholder meets certain conditions; direct deposit remains the most common fee waiver. * Ninety-five percent of interest checking accounts are free if the accountholder meets certain conditions; interest checking accounts set the bar much higher than non-interest accounts and predominantly require a specific balance threshold either in the checking account or among other accounts.
* Also known as nonsufficient funds fees, these increased 1.4 percent from last year, in line with the Consumer Price Index, to a new high of $31.26. * For the fourth straight year, the most common overdraft fee is $35.
Debit Card Fees
* Remain a rarity, with just four percent of checking accounts charging a transaction fee at the point of sale (these are only for PIN debit usage, not signature debit). * Fewer than one percent of checking accounts charge an annual debit card fee.
Bankrate surveyed a total of 10 banks and thrifts in each of 25 large U.S. markets. This included one interest and one non-interest account at 247 institutions that offer checking accounts. In total, 241 interest and 236 non-interest accounts were surveyed.