Bank fees are definitely not going away, but at least they are increasingly easier to find. The number of banks using simplified disclosure forms to outline common charges and policies is growing quickly.
Bank of America and Fifth Third are the latest banks to roll out streamlined forms that outline key policies and fees for checking accounts. Both debuted their forms in the last week.
The new Bank of America initiative, called Checking Clarity, provides two-page forms for the bank's three popular checking accounts, including eBanking and its full-service checking accounts. FifthThird has one three-page form that outlines fees for five different checking accounts offered by the bank.
The pressure on banks to provide simpler disclosure forms has been mounting over the last year. Consumer group Pew Charitable Trusts has shown that the average length of the fine print that comes with a checking account is 69 pages.
The new two- and three-page-long disclosures aim to condense key policies and fees and make it easier for consumers to understand the rules of their checking accounts, as well as make it easier to compare different types of accounts. According to Pew, nine out of 10 Americans have a checking account.
Other banks that currently offer some kind of simplified forms include Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, TD Bank, Capital One and Wells Fargo.
Pew is also putting pressure on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to require all financial institutions to use more streamlined disclosure forms and make policies and costs for overdraft fees easier for consumers to understand.
One thing still missing from the new, clearer disclosure forms at all banks is better information on how to close a checking account. Banks have widely varying policies about re-opening accounts if there are outstanding transactions.
Bank of America's new forms follow on another consumer-friendly move the bank made earlier this month when it announced that it would end its policy of re-opening a closed account if an electronic transaction was made against it.