Which Financial Institutions Typically Have The Highest Fees?


Have you ever felt frustrated by all the hidden fees and charges from your bank or financial company? You’re not alone. Unexpected costs like monthly maintenance fees, overdraft charges, and ATM fees can really add up and put a dent in your wallet. As a consumer, it pays to be aware of which types of financial institutions are most likely to nickel and dime you with excessive fees.

1. Major National Banks

The big national banks like Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citibank are infamous for their lengthy fee schedules. With millions of customers and market dominance, these giants can get away with charging higher fees on checking accounts, savings accounts, overdrafts, and more.

According to a recent study by BankFees.com, the average monthly maintenance fee for a non-interest checking account at a major national bank is $10.99. And if you dip below the minimum balance, expect to pay even more – often $12-15 per month. Overdraft fees also tend to be steeper, averaging around $35 per incident.

In contrast, smaller community banks and online banks have much lower fees on average. So while big-name banks are convenient, that accessibility comes at a premium cost.

2. Brick-and-Mortar Institutions

Traditional banks with physical branch locations typically pass along higher fees to customers to offset the costs of maintaining those brick-and-mortar locations. From rental costs and utilities to staffing and security, running a network of bank branches is expensive. And they make up for it through fees on services like:

  • Monthly account maintenance
  • ATM transactions
  • Paper statements
  • Money orders
  • Cashier’s checks

While the convenience of in-person service is nice, it often comes with a higher fee attached. Many online-only banks can offer no-fee checking and savings since they don’t have those overhead expenses.

3. Banks with Extensive Branch Networks

Along those same lines, big national and regional banks that have branched out across many states tend to have higher fees overall. The more physical locations and infrastructure a bank has, the more potential fees they need to charge to cover those operational costs.

Take PNC Bank as an example. As a large regional bank operating in 21 states and the District of Columbia, their fee schedule is quite extensive:

  • $7-25 monthly service charge on basic checking accounts
  • $36 overdraft fee
  • $5 fee for paper statements
  • $3 fee per excessive withdrawal at a branch
  • Foreign ATM fees up to $5 per transaction

While their extensive network is convenient for customers, you pay a premium for that accessibility through fees on routine banking activities.

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4. Established Financial Giants

There’s no denying the brand reputation and perceived prestige of being a customer at an established “old money” financial institution. But that elite status often comes with a hefty price tag. Many long-standing, big-name banks know customers are willing to pay up for their premium services and market position.

However, newer online-only banks like Chime, SoFi, Varo, and others are starting to eat into the legacy banks’ market share by offering no/low-fee accounts. Customers are catching on that buying into the brand name isn’t worth the excessive costs.

Some examples of notoriously high fees at prestigious institutions:

  • Chase Premier Plus Checking: $25 monthly service fee
  • Wells Fargo Portfolio Checking: $30 monthly service fee
  • Bank of America Platinum Checking: $25 monthly fee
  • Citibank plus checking packages range from $25-$30 monthly fees

Why pay such high monthly fees just to keep your money somewhere with an elite bank name? More consumers are opting for affordable online banks that provide hassle-free, low/no-cost services.

5. Traditional Banking Institutions

In today’s digital age, many traditional banks are slow to adapt and modernize their practices. This resistance to changing with the times leads to convoluted, excessive fee structures for services that online-savvy banks provide for free.

Some common areas where traditional institutions still levy fees include:

  • Mobile deposits
  • Online billpay
  • Excessive ATM fees ($2-3 per out-of-network ATM)
  • Money orders/cashier’s checks

Basically, any sort of modern banking convenience comes with a premium attached at these old-school banks. They get away with nickel-and-diming for relatively basic services because many customers accept it as the “cost of doing business” with a brick-and-mortar bank.

But more consumers are wising up and taking their business to online banks where they don’t have to pay $3 just to deposit a check from their mobile device.

6. Big Traditional Banks

When it comes to excessive fees, it’s clear that bigger and older doesn’t equate to better in the banking world these days. Some of the biggest traditional national banks also have the most expensive, nickel-and-dime fee schedules that eat into their customers’ balances.

For example, let’s compare Chase Bank and Chime Bank side-by-side:

Chase Total CheckingChime Checking
$12 monthly service feeNo monthly fees
$2.50 out-of-network ATM feeNo ATM fees
$34 overdraft feeNo overdraft fees
$6 fee for money ordersFree money transfers

As you can see, the larger and more established Chase charges fees on routine activities like withdrawing cash and overdrafting. Meanwhile, Chime offers those basic services 100% free as a customer-friendly online bank.

Sure, Chase has more branches and ATMs. But if you do most of your banking on a mobile app anyway, why pay such high fees just for the option of visiting a physical location?

7. Investment Banks

It’s not just your typical consumer bank hitting you with excessive fees either. Investment firms and banks that deal primarily with wealth management also have a knack for nickel-and-diming their wealthy clients through various charges.

Some common fees from investment banks include:

  • Trading fees of $1-10+ per stock trade
  • Annual account fees of $25-100+ just to keep your account open
  • Wire transfer fees of $10-30 per transfer
  • Maintenance fees if your account balance dips below a certain level

Even multi-millionaire investors get hit with all sorts of sneaky fees that can really eat into their returns and profits over time.

8. Credit Card Issuers

Credit card companies rely heavily on fees as a major revenue source. From annual fees to late payment penalties, they make big profits by nickel-and-diming cardholders through various charges.

Some of the most common credit card fees include:

  • Annual fees ($95-695 per year for premium travel cards)
  • Late payment fees ($28-40 per late payment)
  • Cash advance fees (3-5% of the advance amount)
  • Balance transfer fees (3-5% of the transferred amount)
  • Foreign transaction fees (0-3% of each foreign purchase)

While some fees like annual charges can be worth it for the right rewards card, others like late payment penalties are pure profit for the issuers. Being aware of the potential costs can help you avoid unnecessarily high fees.

9. Payday Loan Providers

One of the most notoriously fee-heavy segments of the financial industry is payday and short-term loan providers. The interest rates and fees attached to these quick cash loans can make them incredibly expensive and difficult to pay off.

Just take a look at the typical costs of a two-week payday loan:

  • $15 per $100 borrowed = 391% APR
  • Average fees of $15-30 per two-week loan period
  • Late payment fees of $15-100+

With fees and interest rates that high, it’s easy for borrowers to get trapped in a cycle of debt that’s difficult to escape from.

If you’re strapped for cash, consider more affordable alternatives like:

  • Borrowing smaller amounts from friends/family
  • Getting a paycheck advance from your employer
  • Using a credit card (though avoid cash advances)
  • Finding a local non-profit lender with lower rates

While convenient for quick cash, payday loans should really only be utilized as an absolute last resort.

10. Specialty Finance Companies

Payday lenders aren’t the only ones charging outrageously high fees though. Many specialty finance companies across industries like auto loans, mortgages, and personal loans often tack on excessive fees too.

For example, when taking out an auto loan, you might see charges like:

  • Loan origination fees of 1-2% of the loan amount
  • Document preparation fees of $75-200
  • Early payoff penalties if you pay off the loan early

Mortgage lenders are no better, potentially charging:

  • Origination fees of 0.5-1% of the mortgage
  • Credit report fees of $25-50
  • Underwriting fees of $300-900
  • Closing costs of 2-5% of the loan amount

Even personal loan companies can pile on fees like:

  • Origination fees of 1-6% of the loan
  • Late payment penalties
  • Unsuccessful payment fees
  • Excessive interest rates over 30% APR

The key takeaway is that excessive fees are not just limited to banks and credit cards. Almost any type of lender or finance company has the potential to nickel-and-dime you with extra charges, so be sure to read the fine print.

It pays to shop around and compare lenders based on their overall fee structures. Don’t just look at the interest rate, but also all the miscellaneous fees they try to tack on.

11. Wealth Management Firms

On the opposite end of the spectrum from payday lenders, even high-net-worth investors have to watch out for expensive fees from wealth management firms and private banks that cater to the ultra-rich.

While the annual fees tend to be lower than retail investment accounts, they can still add up substantially for millionaire clients:

  • Assets under management (AUM) fees of 0.5%-1%+ per year
  • Wrap fees of 1-3% to bundle investment advice/management
  • Front or back-end load mutual fund fees of 3-6%

“The wealthy are charged fees on almost every aspect of their financial lives – from brokerage accounts to private banking, trust and estate planning services.” – Bob Stein, Senior Advisor at Astor Investment Management

For example, a $5 million portfolio paying 1% in AUM fees would cost the investor $50,000 per year. Over decades, those seemingly small percentages extract a big toll.

So while marketed as exclusive white-glove service, often it’s the wealthy who get nickel-and-dimed the most by their financial advisors through percentages and fees based on their high net worth.

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As you can see, excessive fees can come from all corners of the financial industry – big national banks, credit card companies, lenders, investment firms, and more.

The key is to be an educated, informed consumer who:

  • Shops around and compares fee schedules
  • Avoids unnecessary add-on services with lots of fees
  • Negotiates fees whenever possible
  • Leverages no-fee options like online banks
  • Monitors for any new/increased fees over time

By being proactive and fee-conscious, you can avoid getting nickel-and-dimed by greedy financial institutions. Your hard-earned money should go towards growing your wealth, not lining the pockets of big banks through endless fees and charges.

Frequently Ask Question

What types of fees do financial institutions charge?

Financial institutions may charge various fees such as overdraft fees, ATM fees, monthly maintenance fees, and wire transfer fees.

Which banks charge the highest fees for checking accounts?

Banks that often charge higher fees for checking accounts include large national banks with extensive branch networks.

How can I avoid paying high fees at my bank?

You can avoid paying high fees by choosing banks or credit unions that offer fee-free or low-fee accounts, maintaining minimum balances, and utilizing online banking options.

Do credit unions generally have lower fees than traditional banks?

Yes, credit unions typically have lower fees compared to traditional banks due to their non-profit structure and focus on serving their members.

What are the most common hidden fees charged by financial institutions?

Common hidden fees include account maintenance fees, fees for paper statements, and fees for certain types of transactions like foreign currency exchanges.

Which of the following financial institutions typically have the highest fees?

Large national banks with extensive branch networks typically have higher fees compared to smaller community banks or online-only banks.

What banks typically have the highest fees?

Banks with a significant physical presence and large overhead costs, such as big-name national banks, often have higher fees.

Which financial institution is likely to have the lowest fees?

Online banks and smaller community banks or credit unions are more likely to offer lower fees due to reduced overhead costs.

What financial institution makes the most money?

Generally, large multinational banks with diverse revenue streams, including investment banking and wealth management, tend to generate the most profit.

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