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Gen Zers are paying around 4 times what boomers pay in checking account fees

January 4, 2022, 7:37 PM UTC

The average American with a checking account pays about $8 per month in fees, but younger customers are paying a lot more.

The average Gen Z checking account user, who is around 25 years old or younger, pays an average of $19 in monthly checking account fees, compared with roughly $2 paid by the average baby boomer, the youngest of whom are nearly 60, according to a survey published Tuesday by Bankrate and conducted by YouGov in December that polled 2,195 U.S. checking account customers.

“Younger Americans, including members of Gen Z and millennials, are paying the most in monthly checking account charges,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst, said in a statement. 

Typically, many banks allow customers to waive charges such as monthly maintenance fees if there’s a minimum daily or monthly balance kept in the account. For younger customers, this can be more of a challenge since they likely are paid less and may have expenses like student loans that take up more of their monthly budget. 

“These are some of the same individuals who are earliest in their career paths, striving to achieve their broader financial goals. By shifting some focus to try to avoid or reduce these costs, they should get a good return on that investment of time,” Hamrick said. 

About 76% of banking customers don’t pay anything for their checking account, while 85% are paying less than $5 per month. But among those who do pay some type of fee to their bank on a monthly basis, the cost is steep, averaging about $32 per month. 

Last year, Bankrate found the average monthly fee for interest-bearing checking accounts at traditional banks was $16.35. Noninterest accounts have an average monthly fee of $5.08. Overdraft fees were $33.58 per incident, on average, and banks charged customers $1.51 for each out-of-network ATM transaction.

Many times customers end up paying these fees to avoid the inconvenience of changing banks. When survey respondents were asked why they stay with their current bank or credit union, about 32% said it was about convenience, agreeing with reasons such as that it was too much of a hassle to switch or that they don’t have time to shop around or research a new account. 

“Sometimes we can make the mistake of choosing a path of least resistance when it comes to doing business with financial firms,” Hamrick added.

That fact that young people are paying such steep fees is perhaps more notable considering how many online and mobile-based checking accounts now exist that offer either fee-free options or very low-fee accounts. In a review of approximately 45 fintechs and “neobanks” Fortune conducted last fall, less than a third charged a monthly maintenance fee. 

But despite their growing popularity, less than a third of Americans use neobanks and fintechs—and even less use one as their primary bank account. Overall, about 30% of Americans use some type of online-only banking, according to Plaid’s 2021 Fintech Report.

That, however, is shifting. Plaid found the percentage of U.S. consumers using technology to manage their finances jumped 52% year over year. Yet more services are coming online—as of September, CB Insights found that fintech funding had surpassed $94.7 billion—and existing fintechs are broadening their base. Cash App, for example, dropped its minimum age requirement to 13 in November

“If we’re paying too much in banking fees, or failing to capture a return on savings, it may well be time to shop around,” Hamrick said, adding that those who are paying the average are really spending nearly $400 a year on bank fees. “Given the abundance of options among brick-and-mortar firms, mobile/online, and those offering some combination, there’s truly no shortage of places to look.”

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