For Joelle Brown, writing three rent checks to her landlord before a long trip turned out to be a bad idea. She expected one check to get deposited each month, but her landlord cashed them all at once.
“I was in school at the time and was living off of loan money,” says Brown, who was then an undergraduate at a university in Vermont.
The deposited checks caused her account to drop below zero, but she didn’t know this for four days. By then, she had used her debit card to make additional transactions, leading to a total of $600 in overdraft fees.
And even worse: “It was right before Christmas,” she says.
Brown’s experience isn’t unique. About 30% of all checking account holders are hit with overdraft fees over the course of a year, according to a 2014 report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. There are other bank fees that are higher, but overall, overdraft fees make up the majority of checking account costs.
NerdWallet looked at the average costs of overdraft and other fees over time and found a higher price tag for a checking account than you might expect.
The average cost of monthly maintenance fees, ATM and account use fees, and overdraft and nonsufficient funds fees for a checking account is nearly $1,000 over a decade, according to a NerdWallet analysis of CFPB data.
Read on for more about thestudy findings and what you can do if you’re paying steep fees for your checking account.
This average price of a checking account comes from three different types of fees:
Bank customers incur an average of about two overdrafts per year, but in practice a minority of them, 18%, account for the majority of overdrafts. This group tends to earn less than the national median income of $54,000, and for them, paying overdrafts can mean the equivalent of losing a week’s worth of wages over the course of a year, according to another recent study from the Pew Charitable Trusts, a public policy group that studies consumer banking.
So why don’t more consumers compare checking accounts as they would grocery store items?
» MORE: How to choose a bank
“We live in a world where there’s going to be more and more data and info available,” says Jonathan Zinman, professor of economics at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. “Regulatory pressure and increasing consumer awareness will continue to push financial service providers in the direction of more transparent pricing.”
As more banks lay out their fees in a clear and uniform fashion, it will become easier for consumers to compare accounts and know what they’re paying for.
You don’t have to wait for new laws to better understand and reduce the cost of having a checking account. Here are a few strategies.
“If you’re regularly hit with bank fees, taking the time to find the right bank can easily save you hundreds of dollars over a few years,” says Sean McQuay, credit and banking expert at NerdWallet.
For more details, including methodology, read the full report.
Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter:@SpencerNerd. NerdWallet data analyst Sreekar Jasthi contributed to this study.
The article Study: Average Checking Account Fees Cost $1,000 Over a Decade originally appeared on NerdWallet.