Checking Accounts May Have Fewer Consumer Safeguards than Credit Cards

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Checking Account Fees: Banks Act Voluntarily

After the California court case of Gutierrez v. Wells Fargo, that bank began processing ATM and debit card transactions there in November in order from the lowest to the highest amount.

Beginning May 16 in the rest of the country, Wells Fargo will post ATM and debit card transactions for customers chronologically by date and time, according to Richele Messick, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo. If that data is not available, Wells Fargo will post transactions from low to high. Checks and automated clearing house transactions, such as electronic funds transferring to pay some bills, will continue to post from high to low.

"We would like to see that apply across the board," Constantine said. "That is, legislation that requires banks post transactions to their accounts chronologically or in some neutral order that consumers can understand."

Constantine said Pew Health's goal is to have a bill to make consumer safeguards permanent for checking accounts. She cited the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, which created the Bureau of Consumer Protection, and the Credit CARD Act of 2009.

"A bill is the most permanent and clearest way that reform takes place and sticks, but there are a lot of things that can be done by a lot of players to be done in the meantime. We don't have to wait for a bill to see progress here," said Constantine.

She said Pew will continue to share their findings with banks and credit unions.

"It should serve banks as well to have consumers well-informed about their products," she said.

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