In its annual report to Congress on the politically sensitive issue of bank fees, the Federal Reserve Board said institutions operating in multiple states charge "significantly" more for savings and checking accounts.
The Fed found that multistate banks charged 97 cents more per month for noninterest-bearing checking accounts and $1.40 more for NOW accounts than banks that operate in a single state.
Multistate banks also charged 62 cents more per month for passbook savings accounts and 45 cents more per month for statement savings accounts.
"The larger institutions get, the less friendly they are to their customers," said Karen Thomas, director of regulatory affairs at the Independent Bankers Association of America. "This study seems to corroborate that."
Richard M. Whiting, general counsel at the Bankers Roundtable, disagreed. "The larger banks tend to be located in metropolitan areas where the costs of business tend to be higher," he said.
"Also the larger banks that participated in this survey are probably more oriented toward wholesale and commercial products."
Congress began requiring the Fed to collect fee data in 1989. Every November, it surveys 700 banks and 350 thrifts and then compiles its findings into a report for lawmakers.
The Fed released the report Tuesday on its Web site. Among the Fed's other findings:
?Banks charged their customers an average of 59 cents to withdraw money from their ATMs, a two-cent decrease. But fees to withdraw cash from other banks' machines rose 7 cents, to $1.10.
Thrifts raised fees 21 cents on average to use their machines and 1 cent to use another institution's ATMs.
?The percentages of banks and thrifts assessing per-check charges on noninterest-bearing accounts more than doubled, to 45% and 55%, respectively, while the average per-check charge rose 11 cents at banks and 19 cents at thrifts.
The percentage of banks and thrifts offering free checking fell 5.5% and 8.7%, respectively.
The minimum balance to avoid fees on noninterest-bearing checking accounts rose to $424 at thrifts, a $40 increase. The minimum balance to avoid such a fee at banks was virtually unchanged at $480.
?Monthly fees on interest-bearing checking accounts rose an average of 35 cents at banks and 92 cents at thrifts. Banks increased the average minimum balance required to avoid fees to $1,102, a $38 hike. Thrifts dropped their minimum to $666, a $97 decrease.
?Fees for bounced checks rose 65 cents, to $16.36, at banks. Fees at thrifts rose 56 cents, to $17.62.
?Monthly fees for statement savings accounts at banks and thrifts fell by 42 cents and 23 cents, respectively. Passbook savings fees fell by 15 cents, to $1.46, at banks and rose by 16 cents, to $1.93, at thrifts.