Massachusetts eases bank fees at each end of the age scale

The trend to more and higher fees for banking services has been slowed - if only slightly - in Massachusetts. As of this week, Bay State banking customers under the age of 18 and over 65 no longer have to pay fees for checking and savings accounts. Massachusetts is the first state to enact such a law.

While bankers generally favor the intent of the law - to encourage savings by young people and to ease the financial burden of the elderly - they have expressed concern that the law will lead to abuses. A parent, for example, might try to put a checking account in a child's name. Also, the law does not specifically exclude professional and joint accounts, although it is generally understood to apply only to small individual accounts. Revisions in the law are expected.

The basic concept of the legislation is known as ''lifeline banking'' and is being studied by officials in other states, including New York and California. They are also looking at the possibility of extending lifeline banking to low-income people of all ages, many of whom have been squeezed out of basic banking services by rising fees.

The Massachusetts law applies to state banks, savings banks, credit unions, and cooperative banks.

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