Senior Checking Accounts Could Be Costlier for Elderly

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Your elderly loved one might be losing money if they're depositing checks into a "senior checking account," according to a newly released report from the Pew Center on the States.

Senior checking accounts are designed to accommodate the unique banking habits of older adults, which generally include: fewer withdrawals and debit card transactions, and a heavier reliance on written checks. The specific structure of these accounts varies, but most include benefits like: discounted or free checks, increased interest rates, and rewards for maintaining a high average account balance.

As part of a larger study, Pew researchers examined specially-advertised senior checking accounts at five of the largest U.S. financial institutions (banks and credit unions).

They found that, at best, these accounts offered the elderly a few modest benefits in the form of free checking and rewards for maintaining a certain balance. However for older adults, most senior accounts were comparable or, in some instances, costlier than the basic checking accounts offered by each bank.

When compared with certain basic plans, analysts found that a senior account holder could rack up to $300 per year in additional fees if the amount of money in their account dipped below a certain amount.

Study authors say that it's important for older Americans to clearly understand what they're signing up for when they put their money into a special "senior" account.

"For seniors who do not meet the minimum balance requirements to waive the higher monthly fee, it is unlikely these perks will cover the additional cost of the [senior] account," the report says, "For some seniors, this may be a worthwhile tradeoff, while others may be better served by choosing the bank's basic account instead of the specialty account."

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