To blunt criticism of the banking industry, the American Bankers Association released a survey Tuesday saying that the average bank customer pays $3.80 in fees per month and 43% pay nothing.

"The hype suggesting that consumers overspend on banking services is way off base," Donald G. Ogilvie, the association's executive vice president, said in a press release.

Compared with basic cable service, home newspaper delivery, public transportation, and other "basic necessities," the ABA said, banking services cost "substantially less."

Past research has underestimated the willingness of consumers to maintain minimum account balances and avoid out-of-network automated teller machines to save money, he said.

"Studies that try to estimate what people pay based on all sorts of wild assumptions are not as good as going out and asking people," ABA spokesman Virginia McGuire said.

Market Facts Inc. contacted 1,000 people for the survey in June. Of those questioned, 758 said their primary account was with a bank or thrift. About 10% said they spent more than $10 per month on bank fees. The survey also said that credit union members typically pay somewhat less in fees than bank customers.

Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said, "This is a self-serving survey by the ABA that neglects to answer the question, 'Why can't over 12 million families afford bank accounts?' The answer: because fees are too high."

He also questioned the survey's methodology. "I guarantee that if the consumers who answered this survey mailed their statements in, they would show higher fees," he said. "People always guess low."

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