) -- Every year, Americans spend millions of dollars on nothing.
Thanks to fine print, penalties and questionable surcharges, the average consumer can expect to shell out upwards of $1,000 a year on fees that are layered atop what they already pay for cable television, cellphones, travel and financial services.
Overdraft fee income has evolved into a huge profit center for banks, who will take in an estimated $27 billion in fees this year. An additional $20 billion will be collected for credit card penalties, a number that will undoubtedly increase as issuers including
Bank of America
(BAC - Get Report)
(C - Get Report)
start charging customers who fail to carry over a monthly balance.
According to a national survey by Moebs Services, an Illinois-based research firm, the median overdraft fee on consumer accounts increased 4% to $26 per incident this year. Wall Street banks had a median penalty of $35 per overdraft.
"This is the first time in our 22-year history of collecting this data that we have seen overdraft fees increase during a recession," says Mike Moebs, chief executive of Moebs Services.
Moebs, which provides data to the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, found that overdraft revenue outweighed net income at 45% of banks and credit unions.
Even though Bank of America,
and Wachovia (now part of
) have rolled out new overdraft policies they say are more consumer-friendly, some say the move may be too little, too late as far.