Nothing seems to make consumers angrier than getting charged a fee by their bank when they weren’t expecting it. Some people even leave banks altogether just to get away from the onslaught of fees that are disclosed only in teeny-tiny fine print and explained in headache-inducing legalese. Nonprofit group The Pew Charitable Trusts found that the average length of checking account disclosures is a staggering 111 pages. To cut through the clutter, it proposed a simple, one-page form with basic account fees spelled out — no legal jargon, no tiny fonts. Today, Chase is adopting Pew’s proposal. Effective immediately, a new form spells out the main fees and terms associated with Chase Total Checking, the bank’s most popular account type, according to spokesman Patrick Linehan. “We set out to be as clear and concise as possible,” Ryan McInerney, CEO of Chase’s Consumer Bank, said in a statement. Chase is developing similar disclosure forms for its student, Premier Plus and Premiere Plus Platinum account types.
At the following links, you can compare Pew’s sample disclosure box with Chase’s version. At three pages, Chase’s isn’t quite as concise, but it also lists a lot of miscellaneous fees that are typically buried in fine print. The wording and explanations are straightforward and, indeed, seem designed to inform consumers rather than confuse them.
Two credit unions, North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union, and Pentagon Federal Credit Union, are also adopting the disclosure form (Pentagon Federal also adopted the simplified credit card disclosure form published by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last week). Susan Weinstock, project director for Safe Checking in the Electronic Age at Pew, says the organization has received interest from other regional banks and credit unions, some of which plan to implement the disclosure box next year. But Chase is far and away the largest bank to spell out checking fees with this user-friendly format.
The big question is whether or not other megabanks will follow Chase’s lead. Bank of America spokeswoman Betty Riess says via email, “As far as the Pew proposal, we’re evaluating it.” Citi and Wells Fargo had no comment on Chase’s initiative.