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Curious About New Bank Fees

By David Wade, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) — A lot of people are finding a surprise when they open up their latest checking account statements. It’s a new fee, just to get copies of your canceled checks.

Gill from Bridgewater Declared his Curiosity saying: “First banks said no more canceled checks. Now the image fee is $3 a month!”

That’s right, Bank of America has started charging $3 if you want a paper copy of your canceled checks along with your statement. “The bank said we’re going to charge you for them because we can,” says Gill Solomon, who brought this to our attention.

Getting a copy of your canceled checks used to be free. Now you either pay the three bucks, say ‘no thanks’ and do without, or see them online. That’s still free. “I can’t think of any other reason but greed,” says Solomon.

WBZ-TV’s David Wade reports.

We asked Bank of America why it has instituted this particular fee. “Well, the fee is around managing the costs of creating the statements and sending the statements,” says Bank of America’s Kevin Dolan.

He said he didn’t know if the bank makes a profit on the fee, only that it’s expensive for the bank to maintain your account. “Certainly we want to operate all our accounts profitably for our shareholders,” Dolan added.

Bank of America is not alone in coming up with new charges. The industry was hit right in the pocketbook by new laws that restrict overdraft and debit card fees, which used to bring in a bundle. “So ‘fee’ and ‘new fee’ is the name of the game,” says consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky who runs consumerworld.org.

He says the banks are trying to recoup. “They’re looking for new ways to ding the consumer, ding their customers, and get some more money,” he says.

“Our customers are willing to pay for value. The key is what do they value and do they deem it as important,” says Kevin Dolan from Bank of America.

But some banks, especially the smaller community banks, are competing by going in the opposite direction. Eastern Bank is running television ads saying its free checking account is, in fact, free.

“People simply don’t want to be nickeled and dimed, and that’s what some of the larger banks are doing right now,” says Joe Bartolotta from Eastern Bank.

Gill Solomon is reluctantly sticking with Bank of America because of the convenience of all of its branches and ATMs, and he’ll dodge the new fee by going online to see his canceled checks. But he’s not happy about it.

“No matter what you do, the banks are going to take advantage of you. After what they did to the country? Got bailed out. Our money is taking care of them. They do nothing for us,” he laments.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are often ways to avoid these fees, like keeping a minimum balance or banking online. It can be difficult to plow through the details of each type of account, but if you play the game well, you can save money.

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