Choosing a bank

Many consumers pay high bank fees because they have chosen banks that provide unnecessary services. Consider our tips to avoid paying too much for your financial services.

  1. Look beyond the standard package offered by the large, national banks. Many regional banks, credit unions, and Internet banks offer free checking accounts, savings accounts, and access to ATMs. These institutions may have fewer ATMs than large banks, but they usually do not charge depositors for using other banks' ATMs. Comparison shop for a bank online at bankrate.com, moneyrates.com, findabetterbank.com, and bankfox.com. For help finding a credit union online, go to National Credit Union Association (NCUA) and findacreditunion.com
  2. Avoid paying for a checking account. There are plenty of free options at banks and credit unions, but be sure to find out if the account has a minimum balance requirement. Ask about the fee for going below the minimum balance, and fees for writing checks and bouncing checks. Some institutions offer reduced-fee accounts if you have a consumer, mortgage, or auto loan with them. Setting up direct deposit may also eliminate checking account fees. Even some of the large, national banks offer no-fee, Internet checking accounts.
  3. Get the most out of your savings account. Shop around for the best interest rate, and check to see if opening a saving account will reduce fees paid on a checking account. You also want to find out about minimum balance requirements, and limits on the number of withdrawals. Fees for going below the minimum balance and exceeding the withdrawal limit are common, and could potentially erase the benefit of earned interest. 
  4. Choose the right service package for you. Look over the packages and choose the services you use regularly. Don't pay extra for a service you'll rarely use. Don't get an interest-bearing account if your balance is so low that the interest will be less than the charge of having the account!
  5. Link a card. Many institutions offer lower interest credit rates and higher credit limits to consumers who have other accounts with them. 
  6. Get free, easy access to ATMs. Find out about ATM withdrawal limits, the accessibility of ATMs, and charges for using other banks' ATMs. If you travel, you also want to know if there are additional fees for using ATMs in other states or countries.
  7. Avoid extra fees and charges. Your institution may also charge fees for opening and closing accounts, deposits and withdrawals, overdrafts, placing a stop payment, balance inquiries, branch services, and phone support. Find out if you will pay extra for the services you use most, and ask about ways to avoid paying fees. Check your monthly statement, and challenge fees you don't think you should be paying.
  8. Don't pay extra for overdrafts. Consider that some institutions charge $35 for an overdraft, while others charge $10. Some make automatic loans to cover overdrafts, with APRs up to 36%. Some institutions can make an automatic withdrawal from your savings or charge to your credit card in the event of an overdraft, for no additional fee. Try to choose the least expensive option, given your spending habits.
  9. Know about account activity. Sign up for text and/or email notification of large transactions and changes to your account information.
  10. Ask for what you want. The market for depositors is competitive, meaning that institutions may be willing to sweeten the deal.

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Our veterans need protection at home -- from predatory lenders and financial fraud

While many Americans honor our active and retired military on Veterans Day, federal officials are threatening to weaken financial protections for servicemembers, veterans and their families.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Update to How You Can Change Your Experian Credit Freeze PIN | Mike Litt

Our consumer campaign director provides an update to how you can change your Experian credit freeze PIN after a security flaw was discovered two weeks ago.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Hurricane Michael coverage: Data, resources and interview opportunities

With Hurricane Michael expected to make landfall Wednesday in western Florida as a major, Category 3 hurricane, then continue through the Southeast, The Public Interest Network (which includes U.S. PIRG, Environment America, Environment Florida, Environment Georgia, Environment North Carolina and Environment Virginia, among other organizations) is sharing information to help your readers and viewers contextualize the major environmental, health and consumer concerns posed by Michael.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

You Should Change Your Experian Credit Freeze PIN

Our press release recommending consumers change their credit freeze PINs on their Experian credit reports after reports yesterday revealed a security flaw with Experian’s online PIN retrieval page.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Experian Should Reissue New Credit Freeze PINs Immediately

Our statement about Experian's security flaw with its credit freeze PIN retrieval form. 

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Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Our veterans need protection at home -- from predatory lenders and financial fraud

While many Americans honor our active and retired military on Veterans Day, federal officials are threatening to weaken financial protections for servicemembers, veterans and their families.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Hurricane Michael coverage: Data, resources and interview opportunities

With Hurricane Michael expected to make landfall Wednesday in western Florida as a major, Category 3 hurricane, then continue through the Southeast, The Public Interest Network (which includes U.S. PIRG, Environment America, Environment Florida, Environment Georgia, Environment North Carolina and Environment Virginia, among other organizations) is sharing information to help your readers and viewers contextualize the major environmental, health and consumer concerns posed by Michael.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

You Should Change Your Experian Credit Freeze PIN

Our press release recommending consumers change their credit freeze PINs on their Experian credit reports after reports yesterday revealed a security flaw with Experian’s online PIN retrieval page.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Experian Should Reissue New Credit Freeze PINs Immediately

Our statement about Experian's security flaw with its credit freeze PIN retrieval form. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG response to reports of Facebook security breach

Facebook announced today that earlier this week, "attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts."

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Equifax Breach: One Year Later

A year ago tomorrow, Equifax announced that hackers had breached its system and accessed the data of nearly 150 million U.S. consumers. To mark the anniversary of that notorious announcement, we are releasing a report containing suggestions on how state and federal authorities and consumers can safeguard personal information.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2017

For over 30 years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to over 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

Toys are safer than ever before, thanks to decades of work by product safety advocates, parents, the leadership of Congress, state legislatures, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Lead In Fidget Spinners

While lead in toys has become less prevalent in recent years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund tested several models of one of today’s hottest toys, fidget spinners, for the toxic heavy metal. Laboratory results indicated that two fidget spinners purchased at Target and distributed by Bulls i Toy, L.L.C. contained extremely high levels of lead. U.S. PIRG Education Fund calls on Target and Bulls i Toy to immediately recall these two fidget spinners and investigate how such high levels of lead were found in these toys. Also, we call on the U.S.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund & Frontier Group | Consumer Protection

Older Consumers in the Financial Marketplace

Older consumers are at risk of harm from predatory financial behavior. An analysis of more than 72,000 financial complaints submitted by older consumers (those 62 years of age and older) to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB, or Consumer Bureau) and contained in its Consumer Complaint Database suggests that mistreatment of older consumers by financial companies is widespread.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Protecting Those Who Serve

This report, the tenth in our series on the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database, is called "Protecting Those Who Serve." It is an analysis of over 44,000 consumer complaints from active-duty servicemembers, veterans and their families. The report also explains the work the CFPB and its Office of Servicemember Affairs does to protect military families in the financial marketplace. Debt problems also are a leading cause of revoking secuirty clearances, which affects military preparedness.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Update to How You Can Change Your Experian Credit Freeze PIN | Mike Litt

Our consumer campaign director provides an update to how you can change your Experian credit freeze PIN after a security flaw was discovered two weeks ago.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Ten year anniversary of safer school supplies: Happy Birthday, CPSIA! | Kara Cook-Schultz

Landmark consumer legislation has had a monumental effect on protecting kids’ health.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

ID Theft & Privacy Checklists | Mike Litt

Today, we're releasing our revamped Identity Theft and Online Privacy resources.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG Urges Appeals Court to Block President Trump's Illegal Appointment of Mick Mulvaney as Acting Director of the CFPB | Mike Landis

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in English v. Trump, a case involving a challenge to President Trump’s appointment of Mick Mulvaney as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). U.S. PIRG, along with nine other consumer advocacy groups, has filed two amicus briefs in the case (one in the trial court and one in the appellate court) in support of the plaintiff, Leandra English, who is the CFPB’s deputy director and, we believe, the rightful acting director of the agency.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Tips and FAQ about the Equifax Breach | Mike Litt

Hackers gained access to the personal data of over 145 million Americans in the Equifax breach. Here are some recommended actions consumers can take to protect themselves and answers to frequently asked questions.

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