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BBB: Debit card users should watch for new fees

Recent changes in banking laws capped the "swipe fee" that banks can charge retailers for debit transactions. The average fee was 44 cents per transaction, but the new law caps the fee at 21 cents.

Banks estimate they will lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year in debit card transaction fees and are looking to recoup that money from customers by modifying various checking account fees.

Some of the nation's largest financial institutions already have announced a flat monthly fee of $3 to $5 for debit card use, although some may go to a per-transaction fee, particularly for infrequent users.

BBB is advising consumers and business owners to be on the alert for notices from their financial institutions about changes in the terms of their accounts.

"If you don't understand a notice you receive or see a new fee on your account statement that you weren't expecting, contact your financial institution and ask for an explanation," said Fred T. Elsberry, Jr., president and chief executive officer of the BBB serving metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia.

Account holders may want to ask their bank if there are programs to waive the fee for accounts with a minimum balance. It also pays to shop around; some financial institutions may keep no-fee debit cards.

For more consumer information, visit www.bbb.org/us/bbb-news.