Thrifty Spending Issue 84

FEATURE ARTICLE:  You can expect more bank fees in 2012

Banks will continue to experiment with fee increases in the New Year, according to our own analysis and industry experts, as they attempt to make up billions in lost revenue due to the bad economy and new regulations.

Here is some of what you can expect for 2012:

  • Higher penalty fees: Overdraw your account, and you’ll probably pay more. It costs banks just a few cents to handle a debit-card transaction, but when an account is overdrawn and the bank has to figure out what happened, the cost can escalate to $13. 
  • Less-favorable rates: Banks could try to reduce their losses by increasing the interest-rate margin—the spread between what they pay to borrow money and what they charge to lend it. That could mean higher lending rates, especially on credit cards and other unsecured loans, as well as on auto loans.
  • Charges for premium services: Customers could see new or higher charges for premium services, such as safe-deposit boxes, online budgeting tools, or person-to-person payments, such as Chase’s QuickPay service, which allows you to send money to someone else using just an e-mail address or cell phone number.
  • Move toward electronic banking: Banks save when you serve yourself, just like gas stations do when you pump your own. So expect them to push computer and mobile-phone banking. That means you might pay more if you use a teller or speak with someone on the telephone. Some banks might present the changes as a perk, not a fee.
  • Big credit-card push: Banks are likely to encourage the use of credit cards, says Bill Hardekopf, CEO of, a consumer resource for credit-card information in Birmingham, Ala. They get a swipe fee when someone uses a credit card, and so far those fees have escaped regulation that has made debit cards less profitable for banks. 
  • More relationship accounts: Banks will probably dangle more carrots and brandish more sticks to get you to consolidate your accounts at a single institution, which will mean more fees. But you can avoid them by, for example, having direct deposit of your paycheck or linking your savings and investments.

MONEY SAVING TIP:  Form a wholesale buying club

Families — not just businesses — can band together and form buying clubs to purchase groceries at wholesale prices.

There are some logistics required, but a buying club could make sense if you don’t have a warehouse-club type store nearby. Club representatives fax or e-mail a group order to the wholesaler, arrange for delivery and divvy up the goods. Generally, items are purchased by the case, then shared. Many wholesalers offer produce, organic items, baby supplies and paper goods in addition to nonperishable food items.

To find a club in your area, search online for “grocery buying club” and your city’s name, or check sites like or

DID YOU KNOW…that buying generic is super smart?

When it comes to stocking up on basic ingredients like flour, salt, sugar, rice, and milk, you’ll barely notice a difference in taste between the generic and the brand-name equivalent. In many cases, the only real difference is the colorful packaging and presentation of the product. You’re buying the exact same item with virtually the exact same composition of ingredients whether it has a fancy label on it or it’s the supermarket’s own brand. Make the switch to more generic products and you’ll be able to shave a few dollars off your grocery bill.