Want to close your bank account? It could cost you up to $55.
In a survey of the practices of the 10 largest banks in the country — including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo — policy and advocacy group Consumers Union found that people who want to close their accounts at big banks and switch to a smaller bank can face costly obstacles.
‘‘Banks have added all sorts of fees on basic checking accounts, which has raised alarm bells,’’ said Suzanne Martindale, staff attorney for Consumers Union. ‘‘But when you hit breaking point and want to move your money, guess what you encounter: more fees.’’
Consumers Union said none of the 10 banks will make a free same-day electronic transfer, and all charge for wire transfers or certified checks. Certified checks can cost up to $10 and wire transfers $30.
BB&T and Citibank charge a $25 fee if the account is closed within 90 days, while US Bank, HSBC, and PNC Bank charge customers $25 to close an account that has been open for fewer than 180 days.
The survey was commissioned after the public furor over Bank of America’s plan to start charging its customers $5 for using debit cards. Bank of America backed off after many organizations called on Americans to transfer accounts from large banks into smaller community banks.
A survey of customers at the top 10 banks by consulting firm cg42 in November found that one in five customers actively considered switching accounts. Consumers Union said it soon started hearing from its members that wasn’t easy: Not only did it cost money, but it required a lot of time.
Opening an account at another bank can take a few days or up to two weeks for all the paperwork to be completed. Rerouting automatic payments and direct deposits into a new account can take four to six weeks and can be an intimidating and complicated process for some consumers, the group said.
And banks sometimes reopen accounts after they have been closed by customers.
Chase reopens an account if the bank receives a deposit. Consumers Union said that could easily happen if a direct deposit isn’t rerouted in a timely manner. Bank of America reopens accounts if there is any activity.
Consumers are at risk of more penalty fees after they switch banks. If merchants and other billers charge for late payments for delays while rerouting automatic payments, the previous bank may charge an overdraft fee on an empty account or for a bounced check.
The 10 banks surveyed were Bank of America, BB&T, Chase, Citibank, HSBC, PNC, SunTrust, TD Bank, US Bank and Wells Fargo.