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

Tomorrow's National Free Credit Freeze Law

Our press release about the national free credit freeze law that goes into effect tomorrow. It includes tips about credit freezes and other steps consumers can take to protect themselves from different types of identity theft and fraud. 

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

People impacted by Hurricane Florence face scams, price gouging and other consumer abuses; U.S. PIRG offers tip sheet to help

As people throughout the Carolinas and Virginia start to recover and rebuild after Hurricane Florence, they face a number of scams and challenges, from price gouging to collecting insurance to safety for their pets and themselves. In an online tip sheet, U.S. PIRG is sharing information and expertise that will help readers, listeners and viewers better understand and protect themselves from those who may prey on them.

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

Consumer Group Faults Exemptions for Second Recall of Compounded Drug in 2018

After a second major recall of all sterile compounded drugs manufactured by an "outsourcing facility", U.S. PIRG calls on the Food and Drug Administration to close loopholes that exempt these operations from safe manufacturing requirements.

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

Honey Smacks still on shelves 2 months after salmonella recall

Some stores are still stocking Honey Smacks more than two months after a massive recall due to Salmonella contamination that now has poisoned 130 individuals in 36 states, according to  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The latest FDA update includes 30 more sick people from three previously unaffected states:  Delaware, Maine and Minnesota.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: How to Protect Consumers 1 Year After Equifax Breach

One year after announcing the worst data breach in history, Equifax has yet to pay a price or provide consumers with the information and tools they need to adequately protect themselves. A new report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund provides a recap of actions against Equifax over the last year, new materials to help consumers understand how to best protect themselves, and a case for why both oversight and financial consequences are needed to prevent future large-scale breaches.

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Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

People impacted by Hurricane Florence face scams, price gouging and other consumer abuses; U.S. PIRG offers tip sheet to help

As people throughout the Carolinas and Virginia start to recover and rebuild after Hurricane Florence, they face a number of scams and challenges, from price gouging to collecting insurance to safety for their pets and themselves. In an online tip sheet, U.S. PIRG is sharing information and expertise that will help readers, listeners and viewers better understand and protect themselves from those who may prey on them.

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

Consumer Group Faults Exemptions for Second Recall of Compounded Drug in 2018

After a second major recall of all sterile compounded drugs manufactured by an "outsourcing facility", U.S. PIRG calls on the Food and Drug Administration to close loopholes that exempt these operations from safe manufacturing requirements.

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

Honey Smacks still on shelves 2 months after salmonella recall

Some stores are still stocking Honey Smacks more than two months after a massive recall due to Salmonella contamination that now has poisoned 130 individuals in 36 states, according to  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The latest FDA update includes 30 more sick people from three previously unaffected states:  Delaware, Maine and Minnesota.

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

New Report: How to Protect Consumers 1 Year After Equifax Breach

One year after announcing the worst data breach in history, Equifax has yet to pay a price or provide consumers with the information and tools they need to adequately protect themselves. A new report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund provides a recap of actions against Equifax over the last year, new materials to help consumers understand how to best protect themselves, and a case for why both oversight and financial consequences are needed to prevent future large-scale breaches.

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

Recall: Toys Still Found with Lead Paint Decade After Virtual Ban

On Wednesday, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled more than 30,000 units of BSN Sports rubber critter toys because of lead contamination. Despite Congress enacting stronger protections for toys and other children’s products 10 years ago this month due to a rash of China-manufactured lead contaminated toys, some toys with lead paint contamination are still reaching store shelves and getting into kids’ hands.

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

Debt Collectors, Debt Complaints

This is the fifth in a series of reports that review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about debt collection, with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collectors and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

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

Credit Cards, Consumer Complaints

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was established in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis in decades. Its mission is to identify dangerous and unfair financial practices, to educate consumers about these practices, and to regulate the financial institutions that perpetuate them.

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

Trouble in Toyland 2013

The 2013 Trouble in Toyland report is the 28th annual U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, U.S. PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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

Big Credit Bureaus, Big Mistakes

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis in decades. Its mission is to identify dangerous and unfair financial practices, educate consumers about these practices, and regulate the financial institutions that perpetuate them.

This report is the third of several that review consumer complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about credit bureaus with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with credit reporting.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

Private Loans, Public Complaints

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was established in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis in decades. Its mission is to identify dangerous and unfair financial practices, to educate consumers about these practices, and to regulate the financial institutions that perpetuate them.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

U.S. SUPREME COURT TO DECIDE WHETHER CREDIT CARD COMPANIES CAN CONTINUE TO OBSCURE THE TRUE COST OF CREDIT | Michael Landis

Credit cards are convenient. But using them is expensive. The problem is that most consumers don’t know just how expensive it is. That might change in some states after the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in on a case currently pending before it.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

OUR TAKE ON THE LATEST ATTACK ON THE CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU | Michael Landis

Though the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finds itself under constant attack. The most recent is from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. U.S. PIRG Education Fund—along with nine other consumer and civil rights organizations—filed an amicus brief in support of the CFPB’s request for a rehearing before the entire D.C. Circuit. The Department of Justice also filed a brief in support of the CFPB’s request. It is important that the October ruling is corrected so that the CFPB remains a strong and independent agency that looks out for consumers.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

This New Year, Celebrate the CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

This month, we published our 8th report based on analyzing consumer complaints collected in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database. The release of "Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees" provides a good year-end opportunity to summarize a few of the reasons to be thankful for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which took over in July 2011 as the first federal regulator with just one job: protecting consumers from unfair financial practices. The idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Fight Against Unfair ATM Surcharge Fees Heads to the U.S. Supreme Court (UPDATED) | Michael Landis

UPDATE: I recently wrote about an amicus brief that U.S. PIRG Education Fund filed in support of consumers and independent ATM owners in two consolidated cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Well, those cases aren’t pending anymore. On November 17, 2016, the Court issued a rare order throwing out the cases before they were argued.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Fight Against Unfair ATM Surcharge Fees Heads to the U.S. Supreme Court | Michael Landis

Forcing consumers to pay twice to withdraw their money once is wrong. And blocking ATM owners from lowering their fees? That’s absurd, and it’s why we weighed in with a legal “friend of the court” brief.

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