Thanks to U.S. banks upping fees and modifying minimum-balance rules, so-called "free checking" accounts are the most expensive they've ever been in history. In fact, chances are that unless you've got $723 in your "free checking" account, you're probably paying for it. That is the average minimum balance that bank customers in the U.S. must have in order to avoid a monthly fee on "free" checking accounts that pay no interest. That's up 23 percent from last year, according to a survey from Bankrate Inc., a research/data firm that analyzed 477 checking account offerings at 247 banks.
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That isn't the only record set this year, as the average monthly service fee on non-interest checking accounts is $5.48 — the most it's ever been and up 25 percent from last year. The Wall Street Journal's Robin Sidel reports that banks have been handcuffed by new regulations that say "have turned many of the accounts unprofitable." It's not like people aren't upset either, as Bankrate notes that 72 percent of people surveyed would change lenders if their fees were upped ... until they realize how annoying it is to changing your direct deposit, automatic bill payments, ordering new checks, or getting a hold of an actual living person working at a bank.