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Bank fees downer for some

$5 charge will only apply to some customers, spokeswoman says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Bank fees have local residents debating how they feel about customers paying more for spending money. Representatives from several banks said Monday they have or are looking into the potential for new fees. Betty Riess, spokeswoman for Bank of America, said in the new year, some Bank of America customers who use their debit cards for purchases will be charged a monthly $5 fee in months when they use their cards. Riess said the limits on how much debit card issuers can charge merchants for usage in their businesses was a deciding factor in the fee. “I would say basically the economics of offering a debit card have changed with recent regulations, so as a result we decided to start a monthly use fee for customers who use their debit card for purchases,” Riess said. Riess said the fee would help Bank of America to continue to offer services attached to debit cards. “We do feel it reflects the value of the card, because it enables us to continue to offer the convenience of the debit card with a full range of features that customers have come to expect,” she said. “And that includes things like fraud protection with zero liability, fraud monitoring, we have got a savings program called Keep the Change.” Riess said the company estimates the majority of customers will not be impacted by the fee and can avoid it through certain accounts and bring more business to the Bank of America. “Of those customers that could be impacted, we estimate at least 20 percent would be able to avoid the fee by bringing more of their deposit and investment relationships to us,” she said. The fee will still be charged for those who use their debit card as a credit card, but will not be charged for ATM withdrawals. Certain accounts such as Bank of America Platinum Privileges, Premium solutions and CampusEdge will have the fee waived, Riess said. Riess said the fee will be rolled out in phases in 2012 and customers will receive notice of the change 30 days in advance. Julie Campbell, spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, said starting Oct. 14 the company is performing a test of the debit card activity fee in Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada, Georgia and Washington. The test includes a $3 monthly charge for customers who make a purchase or payment with their debit cards. Campbell said it is too early to say whether or not Wells Fargo will implement the fee throughout the states. She said the company wants to set a fair price for its customers for the services it offers and is always looking at things like industry trends, cost of doing business and market competition. Eileen Leveckis, spokeswoman for Chase, said the bank, as of now, has no plans to introduce any fee based debit card. “What we have done is that we tested in two markets, Georgia and Wisconsin north, we tested a checking account called Chase Customized Checking,” Leveckis said. Leveckis said the account carries a $5 fee and $3 fee for debit cards attached to the accounts. According to Leveckis, the accounts were tested over the last six months. “But as of now we have no plans to roll out this product officially,” she said. “It was tested.” Meadow Vista resident Bill Johnston said the Bank of America fee doesn’t bother him, but if Wells Fargo implemented the same fee he might bank through another company. Johnston said he thinks the banks will follow each other when it comes to fees. “They probably will, just like the airlines did,” he said. “If they can get away with it, they will do it.” Roseville resident Ian Thomas said he thinks the debit card fee is not a good idea, because so many people use their cards these days. Thomas said he thinks whether other banks started the fee would depend on customer reactions. “I think if other banks were making money off it, I’m sure they would (charge the fee),” he said. “I think if they lost customers from their bank, you would see other banks not start the fee.” Penryn resident Marlene Slover said she thinks the fee is fair and that the banks need to charge it. “My thinking is how can a bank offer this service without a fee?” Slover said. “That is a lot of extra work for them.” Slover said she thought the fee could also help people manage their money better. “For impulsive buyers, it would be too expensive,” she said. “It makes them think about it a little more.” Sacramento resident Jake Miller, who grew up in Auburn, said he thinks it’s unfair for a bank to charge a customer to spend their money. “If US Bank started doing that, I might consider going somewhere else,” Miller said. Auburn resident Dirk Devalle, a Bank of America resident, said he has always been of the opinion that because banks use customers’ money to make money, they shouldn’t charge fees. Devalle said he has a plan for how to try to avoid the fee and he doesn’t think going to another bank will help. “We are thinking about taking out an x amount of money every week and paying cash,” he said. “Is everybody going to (charge similar fees) eventually? Probably. So, are we going to change to another bank? I don’t think that is going to happen.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com