Bank fees are still costly -- and going up at many banks. Yet a growing number of big banks are using clearer labeling to help consumers to add up the real price tags on their accounts.
Wells Fargo is the latest big bank to simplify its disclosure forms with a list of the basic components and fees for a checking account and other services.
"We believe they help customers understand key terms and price points associated with their checking accounts," said Lisa Westermann, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo.
The San Francisco-based bank rolled out the new disclosure forms nationwide in May and will offer a Spanish-language version starting later this month, Westermann said. The new forms at Wells Fargo include a three-page fee summary to outline the most important service fees, like monthly maintenance, ATM and overdraft charges.
JPMorgan Chase, Regions and TD Bank have also simplified their disclosure forms in the last year, streamlining account information into several pages. Checking account disclosures are 69 pages long on average, according to report published in April by Pew Charitable Trusts.
Consumer advocacy groups, like Pew, have been calling for banks to create simpler disclosure forms -- similar to the ones that accompany credit card statements -- to make it easier for consumers to shop around for a bank account.
For example, at Wells Fargo a basic checking account cost $7 per month in monthly service fees--compared to $10 for a similar account at Chase.
The revised disclosures also make it easier to see differences in other fees, like those for out-of-network ATMs. Wells Fargo charges $2.50 per visit at ATMs outside the network; Chase charges $2 for each withdrawl at an out-of-network ATM.