The state’s office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation recently surveyed 15 of the largest banks in Massachusetts in order to examine the cost of their least expensive checking accounts.
The survey was conducted over the phone and internet from April to June and relied also on marketing materials from the banks.
The survey found that some banks charged little to no fees or balances, while others charges fees of $10 per month for their lowest cost accounts.
“Perhaps the number one place in which consumers need to shop around is banking,” said Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. “But consumers need to know that cost is only part of deciding what account is best for them. They also need to think about convenience, service and the availability of other financial products being offered.”
Banks ranged from requiring no minimum deposit, the survey shows, while others required $25 to $100 for a deposit to open an account.
Some also required $100 to $1,500 to avoid a monthly maintenance fee.
Among the banks surveyed were Bank of America, People’s United, RBS Citizens (Citizens Bank), Sovereign Bank, and TD Bank.
Tips For Local Bank Accounts (as reported by the state):
• Bank of America eBanking account costs $8.95/month and requires $25 to open. To avoid the monthly charge, deposits and withdrawals must be made online or at an ATM, and consumers must choose to receive online statements only. That means the single use of a teller would trigger a fee for that month.
The Essentials account costs $6/month, with no way to avoid the fee, and requires a $25 initial opening deposit. A box of 50 checks costs $15.
• People’s United Bank Plus Checking has no monthly fee and requires a $25 deposit to open. A box of 120 checks costs $22.50.
• RBS Citizens (Citizens Bank) Green Checking account costs $4.99/month with $50 deposit to open. The monthly fee can be waived with five qualifying transactions per statement period or an average monthly balance of $1,500; qualifying transactions include simple actions such as ATM withdrawals, online bill payments, and debit card purchases. A box of 120 checks costs $24.25.
• Sovereign Bank Classic Banking account has a $5 monthly fee and requires a $25 deposit to open. Consumers can have the fee waived by maintaining a $500 daily average balance. A box of 120 checks costs $14.99.
• TD Bank TD Simple account costs $3.99/month, or $2.99/month for customers who choose online statements only. There is no minimum deposit and no way to avoid the fee. The TD Convenience account is $15/month, or $14/month with online statements only; this fee can be waived by keeping a $100 minimum daily balance. The first box of 120 checks costs $11.95 then $20 for each additional box ordered.
According to the Office of Consumer Affairs, consumers should consider a “Basic Banking” account, a program set up by the Massachusetts Community and Banking Council. Ninety-one banks in Massachusetts are currently signed on to this program.
Another option, according to Anthony, is remembering that any person who is 65 years old or older, or 18 years old or younger, is able to receive a free checking and savings accounts at a state-charted bank. Accounts for people in this age group are not subject to minimum balance requirements, charges for deposits or withdrawals, or fees for the initial order or subsequent refills and basic checks.
You can view the complete survey by clicking HERE.