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The Cream Rises to the Top

Wednesday, 4 Jun 2008 | 6:03 PM ET

So, no dice from Anthony on getting our ‘surprise’ checking fees waived. Requires that darn meeting to adjust the account. As I wrote yesterday, one of our checking accounts (that doesn’t earn interest, mind you) got hit with a $22.98 monthly charge with no warning. Listen, I know these days that 'fixed' no longer means fixed—credit card companies and banks can change their 'fixed' rates at any time and with little or no warning—but the personal banking scene is a crowded one and thankfully one that is now filled with alternatives. Why take an hour out of our very busy day to sit in a brick-and-mortar bank with a rather arrogant MBA to get our $22.98 back? (Um, you’d have to pay ME to do that).

Instead, I took 10 minutes and headed over to Bankrate.com, searched for online banks with interest-earning checking accounts and no minimums and few fees (especially no monthly maintenance fees). In 30 seconds I had a list of several banking alternatives to our current bank. Wow! Look at that—no fees, interest-earning, free online bill pay. And hopefully no arrogant MBAs. Loving it.

Don’t feel sorry for banks in a tough economy. They’re raking it in—from credit card purchases and fees to debit card and overdraft fees. These days it’s all about innovation and choice and we, consumers, taking charge and taking advantage of easy access to information and comparison shopping. Use the web to save yourself money, save trees, and find the best bank for you. 'The One' is out there!

Tell me your banking customer service story/nightmare—did you get your money back? Or did you move it someplace else and if so, what kind of deal did you get?


Join a credit union. They have volunteer board who almost always oppose most fees. --Carl, KY

Posted on: 06 Jun 2008 9:06 A.M.


I used to work for a bank. Rule number one for most banks is how to make money off our customers. --Ryan, WI

Posted on: 05 Jun 2008 6:33 P.M.


There is an easy way to fix all of these fee problems. SIGN UP WITH A CREDIT UNION! They are not for profit, so they are not in financial trouble like the big banks. Therefore, they don't need to charge fees like the big banks. --Fred, NJ

Posted on: 05 Jun 2008 6:05 P.M.


Three times, I have had a "no-charge" checking account. One of those even gave free check blanks. In each instance, a big bank bought up the small bank and tried to charge me a monthly fee. My response was to change banks. I hate big banks. --Tom, MN

Posted on: 05 Jun 2008 3:15 P.M.


We are a CPA firm and kept relatively large balances in our corporate checking account. The local bank hit us with huge amount of fees. They refused to budge even though we have been dealing with them for many many years. Guess what? I dumped them for a small regional bank and now pay zero. The savings were passed onto the staff as Christmas bonuses. --Ron, NV

Posted on: 05 Jun 2008 3:02 P.M.


I used to work for a large bank as a Personal Banker. I did not feel my job was ethical so I quit after only seven months. I started only a week after getting my finance degree, but unfortunately banks will hire anyone these days as long as they can sell(with or without a degree). I feel it is mostly the banks fault for the situation this economy is in right now. --Kelley, TX

Posted on: 05 Jun 2008 2:16 P.M.


For about two decades I had my money with brick and mortars, and got next to nothing in interest from them. I did a search at Bankrate.com as well and ended up choosing E*Trade as my bank and brokerage. E*Trade has 3% or so rates on checking and savings, free checking, free ATM withdrawals ANYWHERE ANYTIME, free transfers, and no minimums. It's been a no brainer. --Derek, CO

Posted on: 05 Jun 2008 1:29 P.M.


Hello Carmen, I have to admit I love reading your blog, a lot of good information that many can relate to them. Keep up the good work. --Hussain, Toronto

Posted on: 05 Jun 2008 12:51 P.M.


On banking fees, I found out that the humongous banks are humongous for a reason, they charge for any fees they can charge you with, regardless what size your account. I carried over $1 million in my account and got charged $20 as maintenance fee. I called my friendly banker. He said that all accounts get charged that. I said, well, I'll take my funds elsewhere. He said, that's your prerogative. So I moved it to a smaller bank and get charged for nothing, not even wire transfers or money orders but not a single fee as they said, you're a good account. Even when I dipped below zero once, did not get charged, because I had called in advance that my account would dip that far. --Joe, NY

Posted on: 05 Jun 2008 12:30 P.M.