Nightly News   |  November 27, 2010

Rising bank fees rile, surprise customers

Does the government’s recent crackdown on bank fees mean consumers are now paying less? In many cases, as NBC’s Lisa Myers reports, the answer is no.

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>>> back now with the story about your money and what may be the hidden cost of doing business with your bank. does the government's recent crackdown on bank fees mean consumers are now paying less? in many cases the answer is no. hear's nbc's chief investigative correspondent lisa myers .

>>> so this is your son's statement?

>> correct.

>> reporter: what outraged peggy engel most was when her son was charged $2 just to check his account balance before he withdrew money from his bank's a atm.

>> so to try to be a responsible banking participant, they penalize you $2. that's wrong.

>> reporter: and when he used another bank's a it tm, he sometimes paid $6 or $7 to get $40 in cash. all the fees have eaten away at money he earned over the summer. $2. $2.50. $2.95. $2.

>> i know. that's insane.

>> reporter: thened added a monthly fee of $8.95 for what had been totally free checking. parents told chirp to trust banks. no more.

>> now you warn them off on all the con games and the scams and the nickel and dimg that goes on.

>> reporter: a recent survey of big banks by bank rate found fees have gone up across the board this year. service, overdraft, atm fees all up. and the number of americans enjoying free checking, that's down. from 76% to 65%. some consumers who didn't watch their statements closely have learned the hard way. barbara nelson was shocked to discover she'd been charged $6 to $12 a month by her bank because she didn't use her debit card enough. basically an inactivity fee.

>> what makes me really angry because they're charging me for not spending my own money.

>> reporter: draining her account in fees on an account she didn't use once this year.

>> the banks are making huge profits of small potatoes , hundreds of millions of small potatoes like me.

>> reporter: the banks argue that increased regulation has increased their costs and an industry spokesman says banks are merely charging customers for the services they use.

>> the key factor is to understand what fees will be charged and when and it's easy armed with that knowledge to avoid those fees.

>> reporter: and he said consumers should expect even more fees soon on their debit cards . lisa myers , nbc news, bethesda, maryland.