Checking-account fees drop 10%-21%

Checking-account fees dr

Household customers are paying 10 percent to 21% less for service charges on their checking accounts since bank-fee reform was instituted in July 2008, the Bank of Israel reported Sunday. "Greater transparency on bank tariffs following the bank-fee reform has increased customers' awareness of fee differences and triggered competition between the banks for new customers among households, which did not exist before," the central bank said in a report. "In the last quarter, some banks started to offer new customers full or partial fee exemptions in addition to other benefits." The Bank of Israel survey examined the five largest banks' household banking fees for the third quarter of 2009. Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi were the cheapest and First International Bank of Israel was the most expensive, the report said. Credit-card fees charged by Visa Cal, which is issued by Israel Discount Bank and FIBI, were the most expensive. The average bank-fee package for basic checking-account transactions was lowered 10%-21%, mainly due to cuts in monthly fees by the country's two largest banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, and increased competition. Households paid an average of NIS 18.10 in monthly fees for checking-account transactions including credit frameworks and loan fees, compared with an average of NIS 22.10 before the reform. Monthly fees for checking-account transactions including credit frameworks were NIS 15.90, compared with NIS 17.80 before the reform. At Hapoalim and Leumi, which serve 70% of household banking customers, average monthly fees on checking accounts including credit frameworks were NIS 14.70, compared with NIS 18.80 before the reform. The reform reduced the number of fees from 198 to 72. Certain fees, such as for credit frameworks, were abolished, while some fees on checking-account transactions were raised. Under the new bank tariffs, fees and commissions for checking accounts are cheaper for customers who use direct-banking services, ranging from NIS 1.35 per transaction at Hapoalim to NIS 2.5 at FIBI. Fees were 20% lower as bank customers negotiated, the report said. Transactions via teller-assisted services, which are mainly used by the elderly and the poor, are more expensive. Teller-assisted services were charged NIS 5.5 at Leumi and NIS 6.8 at Bank Mizrahi, with the other banks in between. The cost of teller-provided services to the poor and disabled were lowered by up to 49% and were made more accessible. Average monthly credit-card maintenance fees dropped by 7% in the January-September period. The average monthly fees for Isracard, which has 42% of the market, were NIS 4.40. Fees for Leumi Card, which has 27% of the market, were NIS 9. Fees for Visa Cal, which has 31% of the market, were NIS 10.70.