Consumers are stashing more money than ever into bank accounts but the surge of deposits is not translating into more fees for banks.
According to a new report from Market Rates Insight in San Anselmo, Calif., deposits at U.S. banks increased by $800 billion in 2011, to $10.2 trillion, yet banks collected $2 billion less in deposit-account fees than they did in 2010. Since 2007, banks have added more than $1.8 trillion of new deposits but their fees from deposit accounts have declined by $5 billion, or 13%, to $34.1 billion at Dec. 31.
It's tempting to attribute the drop in fee income to new regulations surrounding overdraft and interchange fees on debit card transactions, but Dan Geller, executive vice president at Market Rates Insight, says those changes only tell part of the story. Indeed, deposit-account fees have been declining for five years, yet new rules that require banks to receive customers' permission before covering an overdraft have only been in place since late 2010 and caps on swipe fees — which apply to banks with more than $10 billion of assets — only took effect in last year's fourth quarter.
Geller suspects that the bigger reason banks are collecting fewer fees is that customers are simply keeping closer tabs on their cash and and avoiding paying fees such as overdrafts or surcharges at foreign automated teller machines. Historically, an increase in deposits leads to a corresponding increase in deposit fees, but Geller says those days could be over.
"What we're really seeing is a change in the mindset of consumers," he says.
Many banks are attempting to recoup the lost income but doing away with free checking and adjusting other fees, but Geller says that banks need to be considering other types of services that customers want, like identity-theft protection.
"Institutions need to start adding value-added services that consumers want and need and are willing to pay for," he says.