5 things banks don't want you to know

Bank building in financial district
Generic - Bank building in financial district

(CBS News) Do you think your financial institution tells you everything you need to know?

Don't bank on it.

Here are five things to make you a better-informed consumer:

1: Bigger isn't always better

When it comes to choosing a bank, bigger, national commercial banks can be convenient, but consumer banking is just one part of what they do. They are profit-driven, which can sometimes mean they don't have as much motivation to try and draft or keep your business. Credit unions often have better fees than banks. And small banks tend to offer better deals - like free checking - to woo customers.

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2: Watch out for fees

Banks make most of their money from fees, with the average charges running between $4 and $20 per month. Overdraft fees are the big ones here. They average about $35 and banks made an estimated $38 billion from them last year. This is changing a bit. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- the new agency formed by the White House during the crisis -- has just launched an investigation into how banks charge these fees. Be safe and be sure to always read the fine print.

3: Fees aren't always final

Some banks have a policy of waiving one fee a year - you just have to ask. But they're not very up front about this policy. And not all banks have it. But you should always ask, especially if it's your first offense, or your first offense in awhile.

4. Loyalty won't always get you the best deal

Many people assume that if they have all of their accounts and loans with one bank they'll get the best discounts and rates as a loyal customer. That's not always true. You should shop around. There are web sites that make this easier, like BankRate.com. And sometimes if you find a better rate at another bank, your bank will match it, so you'll still get the one bank convenience, but with a better deal.

5. Beware signing bonuses and rewards

The catch? Those rewards might be taxable. Any reward valued at over $600 is taxable. So if you get a "free" signing bonus of, say $1,000, or even $1,000 worth of miles or points when you sign up for a checking account, expect to fill out some tax forms at the same time.

To watch Rebecca Jarvis' report, watch the video in the player above.