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Robert Trigaux

If bank stocks don't soar, bank fees do



Wake up and good morning. Just as the sun rises every morning, so too do bank fees. That's the conclusion of the 19th survey of banking fees just out from Among the findings:

* Bounce a check and you'll pay an average of $28.95. That's 2.5 percent higher than last year. If you're lucky, that's all you'll pay. Too often, even occasional check bouncers fall victim to banks' practice of paying the largest check first when they're clearing several checks received around the same time. If that first check drains your account and there are three or four smaller checks behind it, you'll get clipped for multiple NSF (non sufficient funds) fees.

* ATM surcharges also rise predictably, and this year the average, $1.97, is nearly 11 percent higher than last year's average of $1.78. The surcharge is a fee the owner of the ATM charges nonaccount holders. In other words, if you're a Bank A customer and you use Bank B's ATM, Bank B will zap your account with a surcharge.

* It's great to get interest on your checking account balance, but the trade-off can be awful. Interest-bearing checking accounts at brick-and-mortar banks traditionally require hefty minimum balances if you want to earn the interest and an even higher balance if you want to avoid a hefty monthly service fee. The average balance required to open an interest-bearing account and earn interest is $376.75. The average interest paid on these accounts is 0.24 percent, down from 0.32 percent a year ago. But if you'd like to avoid monthly fees, you'll need to maintain an average balance of $3,461.84, a stunning amount and an increase of approximately 4 percent over last year. If you maintain that balance, you're basically giving your bank a line of credit for that amount at your expense. That monthly fee, by the way, is $11.97, up from $11.72 last year.

Of course, fees are not the only reason consumers choose one bank over another. Here's an interesting look at what motivates folks to pick a financial institution.

Nonprofit scientific research organization SRI International plans to expand its Florida presence, especially in St. Petersburg and Orlando — a move that could create dozens of high-paying jobs and spinoff companies, according to coverage in the Tampa Bay Business Journal. During the next two years, SRI expects to increase its Florida staff by about 30 people, mostly in St. Petersburg, but also in Orlando. It will add 100 people more in Florida within five years after that. Peter Marcotullio, SRI director of business development for engineering systems, is quoted in remarks made in Orlando:

“We’re putting effort into growing our Florida operations. The cost of living is good, the general business environment is positive and there is quality growth in the university system.”

California-based SRI began its Florida operations in St. Petersburg in 2006, where it works with USF’s College of Marine Science, employing 67 people  attracted here by the same state innovation incentive funds that brought the Scripps Research Institute and other biotech research groups to Florida. The SRI news comes on the heels of Draper Laboratory of Cambridge, Mass., offering details of its expansion plans to St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Who knew Clearwater's Tech Data Corp. was full of so may Tampa Bay Rays fans? Here's a series of photos taken at the Tech Data HQ of employees all decked out to support the Rays' World Series drive. My favorite: Troy Carter, a "product sales champion" showing his commitment to the team with his own Rayhawk, a haircut that has become a symbol for many Rays players and their fans. My only question is: Where's CEO Bob Dutkowsky? If there's ever anyone who would look sharp in a Rayhawk...

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:22am]


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