Banks charge $4 billion in fees: RBA

Australians are paying less in bank fees and charges but still hand over nearly $500 a year.

Bank fees charged to households fell for the second year in a row in 2010/11, an annual survey by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) published on Thursday shows.

Households were charged $4 billion in fees during the financial year which amounts to an average of $470 per household, according to financial comparison site Mozo.com.au.

"It's a huge amount of money for Australians to be paying," Mozo Director Kirsty Lamont told AAP.

However, it was $300 million less than the previous year and $1.2 billion less than in 2008/09.

The RBA said a decline in exception fees - when customers overdraw their savings account or fail to make a credit card repayment on time - was largely responsible for the fall in fees.

Exception fees have come under considerable scrutiny in recent years, with political leaders taking aim at the banks, and the Federal Court last year ruling late fees may be legally unenforceable.

Servicing and transaction fees on deposit accounts have also been coming down as banks compete to attract deposits in the wake of the global financial crisis.

In 2010/11, fee income on households' deposit accounts totalled $1 billion, compared with $2.1 billion at the peak in 2007/08.

Meanwhile, the slow housing market has also hurt banks, with fees charged on home loans falling to $1.2 billion in 2010/11 from $1.4 billion in 2009/10.

But the banks have been making up for it by charging greater fees to their business customers - a total of $7.3 billion was levelled on business accounts in 2010/22, up from 6.9 billion the previous year.

Ms Lamont said it was possible for households to pay banks no fees at all, if they do their research.

"Many of us fall into thinking that a $5 fee here and there isn't that much but they all add up," she told AAP.

"My advice is to start thinking outside the big four banks - there are a number of banks out there offering no-fee accounts, home loans and credit cards."

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the government's banking reforms, particularly banning mortgage exit fees on new loans, "mean more money in the pockets of Aussie families".

ABA chief executive Steven Munchenberg said as most fees were paid by wealthier households with more banking products, low income earners paid less than the average.

The lowest income earners paid about $1.50 per week, less than half that paid by high income households.

"This fall in bank fees is a welcome result for families who feel that their budgets are under pressure," Mr Munchenberg said.

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