Most Americans Have Been Charged with a Bank Fee in the Past Five Years, Including Two in Five Who Have Had to Pay ATM Fees

Just Over a Third Would be Willing to Switch to a Tech Company That Offers Financial Services (e.g., Amazon, Apple, Facebook) if it Meant They Could Save Money

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, May 17, 2018 — Two thirds of Americans (66%) report having been charged with a bank fee over the course of the past 5 years, with ATM fees (38%), overdraft fees (28%), and monthly/annual maintenance fees (20%) among the most prevalent. According to the recent online survey conducted by Ipsos on behalf of TransferWise, more than one in ten have also recently been charged with a minimum balance fee (15%) or money transfer fee (14%), while nearly as many report having paid a foreign transaction fee (8%), debit card replacement fee (8%), or paper statement fee (7%) at some point in the past 5 years. Investment fees (6%) and international money transfer fees (5%) are not as common, though one in twenty have been charged these by their banks, while fewer report having had to pay teller fees (3%), transaction search fees (3%), early account closure fees (3%), redeeming reward points fees (2%), or returned mail fees (2%). On the other hand, three in ten say that they have not had to pay any of these fees in the past 5 years (30%), while 4% say that they do not have access to a bank account/banking services.

  • Women are especially likely to have been charged an overdraft fee in the past five years (32% vs. 23% of men), while men are more likely to say they have had to pay a minimum balance fee (20% vs. 10% of women), money transfer fee (18% vs. 11%), and/or a foreign transaction fee (10% vs. 6%).
  • Overdraft fees are also much more common among the less affluent (34% vs. 24% of those earning more than $50,000 annually). Higher income earners, in their turn, are much more likely to experience investment fees (8% vs. 3%), this time along with those who have a college degree (8% vs. 4% of those with no college degree).
  • Both young (18-34) and middle-aged adults (35-54) are considerably more likely to say they have had to pay ATM fees, monthly/annual maintenance fees, minimum balance fees, debit card replacement fees, international money transfer fees, and teller fees compared to those over the age of 55 who say the same thing.

While those who report paying bank fees are typically aware that they could/would be charged, sizeable proportions are nevertheless caught off guard, saying that they were surprised to see that they had to pay such fees. For instance, nearly six in ten were surprised to be charged a returned mail fee (57%) and roughly two in five say the same thing about having to pay their bank to redeem reward points (45%), conduct a transaction search (39%), and request paper statements (37%). A third were surprised when charged with an early account closure fee (35%), minimum balance fee (34%) and international money transfer fees (32%), while one in four say the same thing about debit card replacement fees (26%), teller fees (25%), monthly/annual maintenance fees (25%), money transfer fees (25%), and foreign transaction fees (24%). Overdraft fees (12%), investment fees (11%), and ATM fees (9%) are least likely to catch Americans off guard, though one in ten were nevertheless surprised to see they were being charged with these.

  • On the plus side, just over half of those surveyed report that their bank has waived fees for them in the past (55%), compared to three in ten who disagree with this statement (28%).

When it comes to avoiding fees, seven in ten Americans say they would rather drive an extra 10 minutes to an ATM operated by their own bank than pay an out-of-network ATM fee (69%) and nearly as many would rather have their credit card declined than be charged an overdraft fee (65%). While very few major differences exist across demographics, a significantly greater proportion of men (69% vs. 62% of women) say that they would rather have their credit card declined than be charged an overdraft fee – while women are much more likely to say they would be willing to drive an extra 10-minutes to an ATM operated by their bank if it meant they could avoid out-of-network ATM fees (73% vs. 64% of men).

Just over half admit that they have switched banks since opening their first account (53%) and a third would be willing to turn to a technology company that offers financial services (e.g., Amazon, Apple, Facebook) in lieu of their bank to save money (35%).

  • Those most likely to have switched banks since opening their first account include parents (62% vs. 49% of those with no children living at home) and those with a college degree (59% vs. 48% of those with no college degree).
  • Interest in banking services offered by technology companies is greatest among men (43% vs. 28% of women), younger adults (45% of those ages 18-34 vs. 23% of those ages 55+), parents (49% vs. 29% of those with no kids at home), and the more educated (40% vs. 31% of those with no college degree).

Personal Experience with Banking in the U.S.

Most adults surveyed agree that their bank is easily accessible and readily available to help them (84%), and this is especially true for older adults (91% of those ages 55+), the more affluent (86% of those earning more than $50,000 annually), and those with a college degree (88%). While another seven in ten further agree that their banks provide them with important policy/fee information in a concise and easy-to-understand format (72%), one in four disagree with this statement (23%).

More than three quarters (77%) say that they consistently read their monthly banking statements – compared to one in five (19%) who do not. Two thirds further say they know exactly how much they pay in bank fees on an annual basis (64%).

  • When asked to estimate how much they are paying on fees for banking services each month, 40% guess that this ranges between $1 - $25, while one in twenty believe they pay between $26-$50 monthly in bank fees (6%). Another one in ten (9%) estimate paying more than this ($51+). The remaining 45% say they pay $0 on fees for banking services each month.

Whereas nearly six in ten (56%) believe that banks care about the well-being of their customers, the proportion who believe that they will personally benefit from the tax cuts their banks are receiving drops to 26%.

  • Among men (34% vs. 19% of women), young adults (34% of those ages 18-34 vs.21% of those ages 55+), and those with children living at home (35% vs. 22% of those with no kids), the proportion who believe that they will benefit from the tax cuts their banks are receiving jumps to at least one in three.

When asked about the quality of their banking services, nearly one in five (16%, excludes those who select ‘Not Applicable’) say that their immigration status has disrupted the quality of their banking services, while at least one in ten say that the quality of their banking services has been negatively impacted due to their sexual orientation (12%), gender (12%), and/or race (10%). Men and those under the age of 35 stand out as being much more likely to say their banking services have been negatively impacted due to their gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, and race compared to women and older adults who say the same.

About the Study

These are the findings from an Ipsos poll conducted March 12-13, 2018 on behalf of TransferWise. For the survey, a sample of 1,007 adults ages 18 and over from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii was interviewed online, in English. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of ±3.5 percentage points for all respondents surveyed.

The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’s online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link below for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method) and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, region, race/ethnicity and income.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online nonprobability sampling polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=1,007, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=5.0).

For more information about conducting research intended for public release or Ipsos’ online polling methodology, please visit our Public Opinion Polling and Communication page where you can download our brochure, see our public release protocol, or contact us.

For more information on this news release, please contact:
Chris Jackson
Vice President, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2025

Marie-Pierre Lemay
Senior Account Manager, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 613 793-1622

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The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Vice President, US, Public Affairs