WASHINGTON — About one in five consumers considered moving their checking account to another bank in the past year, largely because of increased fees, but more than half said they didn't switch because of the hassle and complications, according to a Consumers Union survey released Tuesday.
The survey, conducted in May, found that 19 percent of 1,157 adult respondents had considered switching their checking account in the previous year. Of those customers, 43 percent said a top reason was fee increases for routine services, 38 percent said another bank was offering better terms, and 26 percent said they had poor customer service experiences.
More than half of the respondents in the poll said they were hindered in moving their checking account to another bank by complications in the process.
Of those who did not switch, 63 percent said they were worried about the trouble of switching all their automatic payments and deposits, 37 percent said the process would take too much time and effort to complete, and 28 percent said they didn't want to pay any fees to make the change.
Consumers Union said the findings show that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should make it easier for people to move their money by enacting changes, such as requiring banks to transfer all automatic payments and direct deposits to the customers' new bank within two weeks.
"Unfair bank practices and rising fees are prompting more and more consumers to consider voting with their feet and taking their money to another bank or credit union," said Suzanne Martindale, a staff attorney for Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine.
"But many consumers don't follow through because moving your money takes a lot of time and money, and some bank policies make it harder than it should be," she added. "We need to make it easier for consumers to switch banks so they have a real choice when it comes to where to keep their money."
Consumers Union made several recommendations to the bureau in May to make switching checking accounts easier.
In addition to requiring banks to bear responsibility for transferring automatic payments and deposits, Consumers Union said banks should make same-day electronic fund transfers at no cost to the customer, prohibit unfair fees for closing accounts, and consider mandating making account numbers portable between banks in the same way people can keep their mobile phone numbers when they change wireless providers.
The poll found consumers thought some of the changes would make them more likely to move their checking accounts.
Almost half — 47 percent — said that a free, same-day electronic transfer of their money to another bank would make them more likely to switch banks.