Free checking vanishes as banks change services

Bank customers: Free rides are coming to an end.

As banks lose lucrative fees because of new regulations, they're expecting customers to start paying for long-familiar services or settle for cheaper alternatives.

Bankers are using fees and rewards to break customers' habits of writing checks, expecting monthly statements in the mail, collecting interest on balances and stopping by teller windows.

Much of the costs of those services has been covered by relatively few customers who paid heavy overdraft fees and other stiff penalties. But banks are being forced into new strategies as regulatory reforms eat away at those once-lucrative revenue sources.

The shift surfaced this week when Bank of America management discussed its plans to cope with falling fee revenue and the costly services most customers have come to expect.

The bank said that in the new products and fee structures it's considering, customers would be given a range of choices on how to pay for individual banking services. And it promised to make those costs clearer to customers.

The bank, whose depositors constitute the third largest insured depositor group in the Kansas City area, offered one new approach this summer by introducing its E-banking accounts.

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