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Bank fees and how to avoid them

Posted by Mitch Lipka  February 11, 2013 11:53 AM

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Q. I received notice from Bank of America that they will begin charging a monthly fee if I do not have automatic deposits totaling $25 credited to the savings account each month. It’s bad enough we only get about 12 cents interest a year on our accounts, but now they are going to charge us. It seems to me that a law was passed decades ago that if you are under a certain age or over a certain age Massachusetts banks could not charge fees on peoples’ savings accounts and perhaps other accounts. Being one of those “over a certain age,” I am concerned as I have a very meager savings account and really cannot afford to be charged for deposits I cannot make.

Pat Kelly, South Yarmouth

A. Indeed, Bank of America assesses a $5 a month charge on savings accounts unless account holders either have $25 automatically transferred from a Bank of America checking account, have a minimum balance of $300 or are linked with certain other checking and savings accounts the bank offers. Bank spokeswoman Anne Pace said the fee is not new.

And you are correct that there is a law in Massachusetts that protects those 18 and under and those 65 and over from certain account fees – such as the fee you describe. The so-called “18-65” law spells out that account holders in those groups are eligible to open one savings and one checking account and that fees can only be charged for bouncing checks or certain services like wiring money.

But the law doesn’t apply to every bank – only those chartered by the state. Those are the smaller, local banks. Bank of America and any other bank that has either N.A. or F.S.B. after their names are chartered nationally and not subject to this law.

You could certainly move your money to a state-chartered bank to take advantage of the protections. If you do, be sure to ask if they have an 18-65 account and what the minimum balance must be. That can range from $10 to about $100.

Even though it might be a pain, changing banks is one thing you can do to avoid donating your savings to a big bank.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com

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