Well, they're at it again: Bank of America is trying to add new fees to its basic checking accounts, potentially affecting millions of its customers across the country.
If this sounds pretty familiar, it should. In the fall, Bank of America tried to add a $5 monthly fee for the privilege of swiping a debit card.
Customers were outraged by the fee and let the company know it, threatening to move their money away from Bank of America to a different bank or to a credit union on November 5, which was declared "Bank Transfer Day." (To find out whether you should consider a credit union, read this.)
The bank was so overwhelmed by the feedback that it decided to rescind the fees. David Darnell, Bank of America's co-chief operating officer, said at the time, “Our customer’s voices are most important to us. As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so.”
Only a few months later, it looks like the plan has shifted slightly.
The New Fees, Explained
And yet now, only a few months later, Bank of America is once again testing new fees in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts, albeit this time for checking accounts. The first option being tested is a $6 to $9 fee for basic checking customers. Other options being rolled out in those states are monthly fees of $9, $12, $15 and $25 that can be avoided by maintaining a minimum balance, using a credit card or taking out a mortgage with Bank of America.
Why They're Adding New Fees
In these still-sluggish economic times, the banking industry isn't faring so well. Basic checking accounts aren't profitable for banks--in fact, they often take a loss on them. And since new regulations were added two years ago that limited the fee banks could charge merchants for accepting payments via debit or credit cards, banks have lost a significant source of income. (Bank of America in particular lost $2 billion in annual income.) So, as Bank of America looks for new ways to make a profit, basic checking accounts are a perfect target for adding new fees.
Will You Be Affected?
The first thing to recognize is that Bank of America already charges a wide range of monthly fees for checking accounts, which are waived only if customers meet certain requirements. For these customers, the new fees being tested may affect how much they pay each month and what requirements need to be met to get the fees waived.
If you don't live in the testing states of Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts, you most likely have a few months before the checking fees become standard nationwide, as the bank has not officially announced its timeline for the rollout of these fees.
If you're a Bank of America checking account holder and are upset by the idea of new fees, make your opinion heard now. As we saw with the debit card fees in the fall, Bank of America has been responsive to its customers when enough of them voice displeasure. Read more about how Bank of America's customers banded together to get the debit card fee revoked here.
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