Decoding the Bank's Secret Invoice
The odds are pretty strong that you've never seen your company's account-analysis statement -- and that you wouldn't know what to do with it if you did see it. That's an oversight that could be costing you money.
How so? An account-analysis statement is the most comprehensive record of every service performed by your bank during the previous month and of the amount you were billed for each service. "If you don't see it, you can't tell if the bank is charging you the fee it promised for the services it performed," explains James Sagner, a partner at Sagner/Marks, a treasury-management consultancy in Chicago. "And you can't comparison-shop between banks because you can't really compare bottom-line costs." If your lender can't (or won't) give you this invoice, your business may belong elsewhere.
1. Earnings credit allowance (also called an earnings credit rate, or ECR). "Banks give corporations a credit toward reducing their monthly fees, but credits vary widely," says Sagner. "To compare banks, find out (a) which bank ties its ECR percentage to the highest financial benchmark and (b) which makes the fewest deductions (such as government-mandated reserves) against your monthly balance before calculating your overall credit."
2. Deposits -- unencoded. You'll incur higher charges for check deposits that lack scannable encoded information -- the amount of the check, for instance. Shop for the lowest fee if many of your customers have unencoded checks. Or, if most of your customers have sophisticated payables systems, look for the best "encoded" discount.
3. Deposits -- encoded -- other feds. Banks charge more to handle checks that must be processed through other Federal Reserve banks. If you receive a lot of checks from outside your fed district, search for the lowest fee spread.
4. Paid items -- EFT. Electronic fund transfers (EFTs) can be expensive, and different banks have different fees for them. If you use them, routinely check to make certain you're charged only for the EFTs you actually authorized.* * *