Big Banks Charging Big Bucks By MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writer

nullJanuary 31, 1997

The city’s biggest banks are continuing to take the biggest bite out of depositors’ wallets. Chase Manhattan and Citibank top the list of the most expensive banks in the city, according to a new survey released yesterday by Public Advocate Mark Green and State Sen. Franz Leichter (D-Manhattan).

Chase retained the dubious title of the most expensive bank for fees for checking accounts, money orders and stopping payment on checks, even though it slashed minimum-balance requirements.

The banks offering the best bang for depositors’ bucks are small, neighborhood institutions such as Fourth Federal Savings and Maspeth Federal Savings, the survey showed.

Green said consumers could reap big savings if they comparison-shop for banks the same way they shop for food, clothing and services.

The survey rated banks by gauging how much depositors would gain or lose in one year, based on the most advantageous combination of checking, savings and money market accounts.

A mid-level depositor, defined as someone with bank balances between $800 and $3,000, would come out $100 ahead at Fourth Federal Savings because of interest paid. But at Chase, that same depositor would probably face $130 in annual fees.

“That’s a $230 shift in savings,” Green said. “It’s like getting a salary increase.”

Chase spokesman Ken Herz called the survey “ridiculous,” saying that it failed to include the bank’s self-service checking account, which has a $1,500 minimum-balance requirement.

Herz also criticized the comparison of small banks with few services to large, full-service institutions like Chase that have branches all over the city.

“New Yorkers are smart,” Herz said. “That’s why we have by far more customers than anyone else in the city.”

Chase recently merged with Chemical Bank.

Citibank is the city’s only bank offering home banking and free and unlimited electronic bill payment, said spokeswoman Susan Weeks.

“Our customers are looking at the total value they derive,” she said.