One of the items that has been in the financial news a lot lately is the effort to come to an agreement on caps to swipe fees on debit cards. While originally proposed at 12 cents, the new swipe fee announcement puts the fee at a base rate of 21 cents, with the ability to tack on a little extra for fraud protection.

These new rules could already be heralding the end of free checking — even though they aren’t expected to take place until October. Many banks have been adding new fees over the past few months, especially on checking accounts. Monthly service fees, minimum balance requirements, and minimum activity requirements are becoming the norm. Rewards checking is also falling by the wayside, as more banks cut this type of account.

With all of these changes, it is likely that we will see an end to free checking — at least from the bigger banks in the country.

Small Banks and Credit Unions Excluded from Swipe Fee Limit

It is worth noting that the new swipe fee rules are meant to affect only the biggest banks. Smaller banks and credit unions won’t have the same cap on debit card fees, so it is likely that they will maintain their free checking products for your use. Additionally, many online banks offer free checking, and you can even get rewards checking from banks like PerkStreet. The key is to look smaller.

Indeed, if you have been banking with a big bank, you need to be aware of changes that might be made as a way to increase revenue at your expense. It might be time to consider moving to a new bank — or a credit union. These smaller financial institutions have lower overhead costs, and they have the ability to offer you better deals in some cases. Indeed, it is in their best interests to offer you an alternative to banking with the big guys.

If you aren’t sure of what’s next for free checking at your big, national bank, you might want to do some comparison-shopping with smaller, regional banks and credit unions. See what’s available for you in your hometown, and see whether or not you can maintain flexibility, and low-cost banking options, with something smaller. This becomes especially important as big banks try to figure out what they will do to earn more money from you — usually in the form of more fees.