Poor disclosure practices make it difficult for customers to choose the bank that fits their needs, a new study of checking-fee transparency says.
The average checking account carries 30 different fees, and some have more than 50, according to a study of checking-fee disclosures released Tuesday by WalletHub, a personal-finance website. Some banks list the fees on their checking account web pages, while others require potential customers to read through dense fee schedules in order to learn the fees, the study said.
Capital One (COF) and Fifth Third (FITB) are the only two banks that received perfect scores for transparency. Both banks either disclosed or did not charge all of the key fees that the survey assessed, made their fee information easily accessible and provided clear, short fee disclosures.
Of the 25 banks in the study, five did not make list of fees available on the checking-account product pages of their websites before a customer submits an application for a checking account. These five banks HSBC, Huntington Bancshares (HBAN), USAA Federal Savings, Sovereign Bank and M&T Bank (MTB) were the five lowest-scoring banks on the survey. M&T, which did not provide a schedule of fees anywhere on its website, scored lowest overall.
Other banks that received high scores for transparency were Citigroup (NYSE:C), Union Bank in San Francisco, Bank of America (BAC) and TD Bank.
A lack of uniformity in fee-disclosure statements makes it difficult for potential customers to choose the checking account that best fits their needs, WalletHub said. Last week, RBS Citizens Financial Group, Comerica, Sovereign Bank and First Horizon (FHN) announced that they would model their disclosures on guidance developed by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase (JPM), SunTrust Banks (STI) and Regions Financial (RF) are among the banks that have adopted these guidelines.
WalletHub called the Pew guidelines helpful, but noted that even among the banks that had adopted the guidelines, many less-common fees, like wire-transfer and account-closure fees, are not disclosed.
WalletHub is a personal-finance social media website created by CardHub.