Banks Phasing Out Free Checking Accounts Trend of the 1990s falls victim to new banking environment By Nick McMaster, Newser Staff Posted Feb 5, 2011 3:45 PM CST 43 comments Comments Bubba Watson holds an oversized check after winning the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament in San Diego. With that kind of deposit, he'll likely avoid fees. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) (Newser) – The days of free checking accounts are numbered for many bank customers around the country, reports the Los Angeles Times. New rules that make it harder for banks to impose various fees mean they need to pull in money from elsewhere, so those free accounts are being phased out. Generally speaking, figure on spending about $100 a year in fees to maintain a checking account—unless you're willing to keep a fatter balance. "Wealthy consumers will be able to avoid these charges by maintaining high balances," said one consumer finance specialist. "But for the poor and moderate-income people whose balances are lower, it's going to be much harder to avoid these fees." Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citibank have already started to implement the charges. Besides reading the fine print, a Consumers Union analyst has another piece of advice: "Complain. A lot of these are pilot programs, where the banks are testing what their customers will tolerate."