Nightly News   |  October 15, 2011

Divorcing your bank?

With bank fees on the rise and free checking accounts rapidly vanishing, NBC's John Yang explores some ways around the charges.

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>>> for americans, watching their bottom line yet another thing to worry about. perhaps you have gotten one of those letters from the bank announcing new fees on debit cards and checking accounts . so what can you do? we asked nbc's john yang to take a look.

>> reporter: as retirees on a pension, jerry and doris royce watch their pennies, so they were angry when their bank told them about a new $15 a month maintenance fee , more than the interest they were earning. what did they do with the letter?

>> that's it. goodbye.

>> reporter: account closed. a result of the rising cost of keeping your money in a bank. according to, last year 65% of non-interest checking accounts were free. now, fewer than half are. over the same period, maintenance fees shot up 85% to more than $52 a year. and the minimum balance required to avoid those fees more than doubled to $585.

>> consumers quite honestly have had enough. they are nickelling and diming consumers to death.

>> reporter: bankers blame congress and new regulations that cap their fees on credit cards , debit cards and overdrafts.

>> we're going to start losing money on checking accounts . and so therefore we had to raise revenue. and unfortunately this time on the customer in order to have that product for customers.

>> reporter: there are alternatives. analysts say that online banks , small regional or community banks and credit unions sometimes offer higher rates on deposit, lower rates on loans, and lower or even no fees at all. but there can be drawbacks like limited atm networks and fewer or no local branches. then there's the pain of uprooting your financial life.

>> honestly people say leaving a bank is like getting a divorce. so much paperwork, so much hassle involved.

>> reporter: the royces moved money to a credit union . was it worth the trouble?

>> i think so.

>> also the principle of the whole thing.

>> yes.

>> reporter: a conclusion more and more people may soon be reaching. john yang , nbc news, new