HIGHTOWER: Gouging Us With Bank Fees

This just in the Hightower offices: "First Quarter Profits of Banks Set New Record." This comes on top of record-level bank profits last year -- and the year before that -- and... well, it's better to own a bank these days than to rob one.If you wonder why banks are making such a killing, check the fees they're charging. I recently received a mailing from my bank. Well, it used to be my bank -- now it's been bought-out by Norwest Banks. I don't live in the Norwest, I live in the Southwest, but it doesn't matter because this bank is actually headquartered in the Midwest.My new bank owners addressed me as "Dear Valued Customer" (I love that personal touch, don't you?). They wrote to update me on the bank's "fee schedule." Guess what? Not a one of the fees went down! There are now so many fees that they organize them into categories: Fees for all accounts, for savings and checking accounts, for time accounts, for ATMs and for "Other."Want to check on your balance? Cost ya a buck. Think they made a mistake on your balance? There's a $20-per-hour "reconciliation" fee. Want a copy of your statement? Two bucks. Depositing coins? Ten-bucks-an-hour to sort them, even though it's done by machines. "The hell with it" you say, just close my account? Hey, ten bucks to do that, Buster.The nastiest, though, is a $5-a-month charge if your account doesn't show enough "activity" -- a fee for not generating enough fees. The Mafia has nothing on these guys.Norwest informs me that this new fee schedule "will ensure that fees are consistent at all Austin Norwest banking locations." Oh good. I was really worried that the rip-off might not be consistent.Norwest's letter says: "We are working hard to develop solutions to better serve your financial needs." Here's a solution: Stop gouging us with excess fees!

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