J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) just announced some interesting changes to its mutual fund offerings. If other fund companies follow suit, investors could benefit.

Morgan will no longer offer "Class B" and "Class C" shares of several of its mutual funds. Essentially, these classes refer to loads -- which are fees that mutual fund companies extract from shareholders, sometimes as steep as 8% or more. There are several kinds of loads -- front-end, back-end and level loads, which are essentially ongoing annual fees.

With many mutual funds, you'll see several classes of shares of that single fund available -- these are labeled "Class A," "Class B," "Class C," etc. Class A shares are generally those with front-end loads. If a fund carries a 5% front-end load and you invest $5,000, then you're really only investing $4,750. A full $250 is skimmed from your investment to cover the load.

Class B shares typically carry a back-end load, meaning that a percentage is taken from your investment when you withdraw your money. Many back-end loads decline the longer you remain invested. Class C shares often feature a back-end and/or level load. Both B and C shares often sport higher expense ratios (annual management fees) to make up for the money they don't get upfront via front-end loads. (Are you following this? Take a deep breath.) In essence, B and C shares serve investors less well than do A shares.

What's J. P. Morgan's motivation? Well, perhaps it's out of the goodness of its heart, perhaps due to good business sense, or perhaps due to the fact that the National Association of Securities Dealers recently alerted investors to the cost of back-end loads, making them harder to sell. Oh, and regulators are investigating fellow fundster Morgan Stanley's (NYSE:MWD) fund practices, too. None of this is making B and C shares all that attractive these days.

What's an investor to do? For starters, avoid loads (though some solid funds do sport them). Give serious thought to investing in an index fund -- the best ones are no-load and charge extremely little fee-wise. With an S&P 500 index fund, you can immediately own shares of companies such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), General Electric (NYSE:GE), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), and PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP).

Learn more about the more insidious classes of fund shares in this article and this one, too. And learn all about mutual funds in general at our Mutual Fund Center.