Bank mergers are scarcely a new experience for American consumers. Since the 1980s, banks have been bought, sold and swallowed at a dizzying rate.

The result of these mergers is often not favorable to customers and, as the Federal Reserve (search) has confirmed, large, merged banks often charge more fees.

So, how can you protect yourself after your bank merges?

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Banks are required to notify you of any changes to fees or minimums. Pay close attention to brochures or flyers that announce your "new account." New fees or a new structure of minimum requirements will be included, though it may be in the fine print.

Many merged banks do not alter the price of their services while media scrutiny is intense. After several months or a year, however, they may announce new requirements or penalties.

Past bank mergers have resulted in lost data and mistakes that can be inconvenient and costly.

Rival banks typically see mergers as an opportunity to pick up customers. They may offer favorable deals, low fees and, just as important, friendly service and convenience.