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Bank customers win one -- for now

Now that Bank of America and other big banks have backed away from plans to charge monthly debit card fees, customers can celebrate -- and prepare for the next round.

By Giselle Smith Nov 2, 2011 5:22PM

Champions of the underdog -- and mad-as-hell bank customers -- celebrated when Bank of America announced Tuesday that it would not implement a monthly $5 debit card fee after all.


Consumers had voiced their outrage by the hundreds of thousands, signing a petition against the bank and joining a "Bank Transfer Day" movement to encourage big-bank customers to move their accounts to credit unions and community banks. An online petition drive by 22-year-old Molly Katchpole of Washington, D.C., had 100,000 signatures within a week, and 300,000 after a month, ABC News said.


Is there a trend here? Netflix recently reversed itself after customers loudly opposed its plan to split the streaming and DVD rental operations, not long after an unpopular price increase. 


The power of many

Consumers are gaining power, thanks in part to social media like Twitter and Facebook. Through social media, individuals can rapidly build support for causes. The result can be a public relations nightmare for long-established companies accustomed to business as usual.


"Most corporations only become aware of the wallop of this emerging consumer power when they make a serious mistake and fall victim to it," USA Today said. Post continues below.


"The public backlash over debit card fees should serve as a big wake-up call to banks that they can't take their customers for granted," Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in a statement. "While banks may come back with other fees in the future, they'll be gauging public reaction carefully."


More fees likely

Many industry watchers say banks will implement other fees to make up for lost income due to the Durbin Amendment, which caps the "swipe fee" retailers pay banks every time a customer uses a debit card to make a purchase. As MSN Money reported last month:

Starting Oct. 1, the maximum fee merchants will pay is 24 cents per debit transaction. Prior to the change, the current average was 44 cents, based on the $38 average debit purchase.

"When banks have their revenue streams cut in one area, they will find a way to make up for that in another area, and it is always the consumer who pays for it," Bill Hardekopf, chief executive of, told MarketWatch.


In fact, the banks had already found a way to make up for the reduction in debit card income -- by upping monthly checking account fees, Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of credit card comparison website Card Hub, told MainStreet.


"Debit card fees weren't just about making up for lost revenue, but also an opportunity to boost their bottom line," he said.  


Because the banks have already covered the swipe fee losses, he said, new fees might not come immediately. "Banks are entering a holding pattern. We may see some tests, but no major decisions (on new fees) will be made for at least six months."


What to watch for

Check your bank account to see what you are being charged and whether any fees have changed. Is your bank now requiring a higher minimum balance to avoid paying fees?


If you decide to switch banks, consider MainStreet's "how to quit your bank" advice, which includes: "(Look) at your own spending behavior and determine whether you'll be able to duck the fees at the new bank you're thinking of joining."


"Stay vigilant," Consumers Union warns, and offers tips on changing banks -- and a how-to video -- on the website


More on MSN Money:

Nov 2, 2011 8:37PM

While it's on a roll... do you think everyone could start yelling about these "contracts" that we're tied into for phones, cable, etc.???  I shouldn't have to commit to a company that gives me poor customer service, charges me fees out the rear (and doesn't explain what it's for),  and/or stay with a company that misrepresents itself to get me to sign up and then does a 180 after I'm stuck with them for 24 months!  


For a month... don't renew your phone contract (get a prepay), turn off the cable (or cut down the services to local channels), and continue moving money from the big banks to small local banks & credit unions.   I don't know about everyone else, but I'm tired of companies treating me like they're doing me a favor by letting me use their services!


BTW... I worked in banking for over 20 years.  Did you know that the "rich" have low interest loans, waved fees (of all types), and get free perks? Where do you think the banks are making a profit from??  An elderly woman called me in a panic. She lives on her one SS check each month and made a $20 error.  Because the bank paid the largest amount first, it bounced several smaller amounts.  Her overdraft charge was  $195.00, leaving her $30 to live off of for the rest of the month.  The manager refused to refund any money for her mistake.  The local rich dude who was always in overdraft, but in "good standing" with the bank, had $2,356 in overdaft charges (5x that per month)... and they were refunded.  Hearing that woman cry is what made me leave banking.

Nov 2, 2011 7:28PM
I'm not preparing for any next round.  I won the war.  Can you say 'Credit Union"??? Wink
Nov 2, 2011 7:22PM
PEOPLE POWER  BOYCOTT, BOYCOTT, BOYCOTT America needs to shut down the corrupt banks and take your business else where.
Nov 2, 2011 8:02PM

Banks aren't looking to make up for lost revenue.  That is the lie being hard-sold to us by every "analyst" out there.  No, its about MAINTAINING the current amount of revenue they creatively usurped from us over the past 3 decades.  1st it was convincing us to carry credit card balances.  That is NOT a historical bank profit stream, as pre-Stagflation, no one had more than 1 or 2 open revolving credit accounts, and paid the balances each month.  Now, even though the population has doubled or more, and credit accounts per household have also doubled or tripled, they still cry about losing revenue from revolving credit accounts!!  They have something like 9X more open accounts than they had in the 1970s!  And most are accruing interest!!

Next: reduced labor costs due to the ATM.  Sure, branches have a skeleton crew on Saturdays now, but compared to the army of tellers needed M-F manning counters and drive-thru windows, the ATM helped them save tons in employee costs.  Then came direct deposit, internet banking and electronic transfers.  Then they got an entirely NEW revenue stream: Instead of paying money to print then process checks, they COLLECT profit from swipe fees!  And now they whine because the profit has been regulated and reduced?  Seems to me that Congress needs to regulate their @$$es back to 1960 and let them figure out how to make money the way their grandpappies did!

Nov 3, 2011 8:19AM
I had a problems with a bank 35 years ago and after them bouncing 3 checks (their mistake) I closed my account and joined a credit union. I get better rates, free checking, no fee atm, no fee debit, very low Visa rate, Lower rates on new and used car loans, etc. Why would anyone want to keep doing business with these banks who just keep coming up with more ways to take your money? Give your bank the heave-ho and join a credit union and you will never look back.
Nov 2, 2011 7:19PM
Take your money out of the big banks and put it in a Credit Union. Enough is enough when it comes to these thieves.. Shore up America and a local Credit Union that knows your name.
Nov 3, 2011 1:34AM

I laugh when I hear about how Bank of America will make the CUSTOMERS pay for the loss of revenue due to the new act.


They could *HALVE* the amount of BONUSES they paid to their top FAT PIGS at the money TROUGH in 2010 and have FULLY paid for the lost revenue.   4.4 BILLION DOLLARS in just BONUSES to those PORKERS in 2010 alone.


Obviously, you can see where the top 1% feel their money needs to go, and where they are going to get it from (the REST of us).


Nov 2, 2011 8:21PM
I've been posting for quite a few years now that a blue collar/taxpayer revolution is on the way. Signs still keep pointing in that direction and this is a perfect example of things to come. I'm still predicting it's going to happen. The money gap between the rich fat cats and the workers who support them gets bigger every day. They're raking in higher and higher profits and the workers keep getting wage and benefit reductions while they're expected to shoulder bigger and bigger workloads. Companies continue to cut jobs as a primary source of profit increases and the execs reap larger paychecks and bonuses for the results. They retire with obscenely huge retirement payouts and benefits packages that they still insist are justified while older workers are forced into early retirement with drastically limited pensions. I'm convinced any economic rebound is not affect the coming revolt. It's on the way...
Nov 2, 2011 6:23PM
And the possibility for more fees (and in this BofA is no stranger to fees in their own companies history); this is a good reason to go ahead and clse those accounts and move the money; even though they backed off on this ONE FEE.  A future, hidden fee wouldn't hit one, if one isn't their customer anymore.
Nov 3, 2011 8:06AM
These huge corporations think that they are ENTITLED to grow 5% to 12% per year regardless of what the economy is doing....WRONG!   As far as the fees and MY accounts: If the banks are going to pack on fees and fee me to death I will not support them in any way, shape or form.  I'm taking ALL of my banking business to our local credit union.  Goodbye major banks you've raped me and my country for the last time!
Nov 2, 2011 9:20PM

Yeah, Right..........BoA listening to their customer's voices.  WHAT a CROCK!

More like they WITNESSED the FLOW of CASH OUT the SAFE as many customers set up new accounts elsewhere, mainly Credit Unions.

Poor BoA, Boo-Hoo.  If they had treated customers as people, rather than exploit their resource, possibly people would not have bailed on them.  IF BoA had properly used all of their BailOut $$$, they wouldn't be in financial trouble & attempt to charge people to access their own money, that BoA uses as leverage.

I, for one, say Good-Bye, Farewell, Adios, Adeiu.  Started with a small bank decades ago, time after time bought out with BoA now owning.  Hate the way they "HOLD" money for their use over weekends, until midnight Monday.

They are not the only guilty ones.  Wells Fargo, Chase are the same.

They of the Big Banks need the Wind Knocked Out of Their Sails.

Want to really get them, keep minimum amount in account to keep open but, do not use the account.

Nov 2, 2011 7:02PM
Another Bank in Kingsport Tennessee.............REGIONS .........charges you a $10 fee if someone who has an account with them writes you a check....when you cash the check at their bank ....they charge you $10. ..............SOUNDS LIKE A CHECK CASHING SITE ...........NOT A BANK.......this made me have a very low opinion of this bank..........MONEY GRABBERS.......$10 fee for cashing a check.....................UNHEARD OF AND CAUSES MY OPINION TO LOOK AT THIS BANK AS TRASH....WOULD NEVER DO BUSINESS WITH THEM.
Nov 2, 2011 8:33PM

might cut into the bonuses. Im dumping BOA and going to a credit union. Im disgusted with their greed.. they use MY money then charge me to use MY money??  Also I  have found their customer service to be lacking. 

Too bad the greedy bank execs cant take a little less in profit since the rest of us are...

Wells Fargo did the same thing as BOA...but only in a few states, including her ein New Mexico.  I was already paying fees for a checking account, fees for checks, and was forced to open a savings account and have money transferred to it monthly automatically, and if that money wasn't there to transfer, I was charged a fee.  Closed all 5 of my expensive accounts, and opened ones at a local small bank for the no fee and free checking.  AND...go figure, their customer service is better, lines go faster, and they offer free coffee and water in the lobby for customers.  I say pull together Americans and screw the big chain banks that are trying to screw us!!
Nov 2, 2011 10:32PM
there is a perception that "banks" may be greedy? Not a perception...more of a fact when the American Taxpayer pays to bail these greedy bloodsuckers out from their greed at loaning home mortgages to anyone capable of filling out a form....and paying themselves BILLIONS in raises and bonuses for doing it.  Then they raise all their fees and such because they do not want to loan money to qualified small businesses...their new "Business Model" is to balance their books on the backs of regular customers through fees and charges.
Nov 3, 2011 7:52AM

People need to be more active, rather than just complaining. Shop around people. Check your local banks. They offer pretty much the same services and would love to have your money. If more fought back against the bigger banks, and pulled their money out, the banks will get the message.


It's good that the banks listened this time. But I wonder how many investers they lost during this. Not many I would guess.


I have no faith in the big banks. I keep my money local.

Nov 2, 2011 10:25PM
It's bad enough that the "big banks" got their bailout packages for multimillion dollars that was divided up amongst the CEO's, CCO's, etc. and the consumer got practically nothing.  Now they want to charge the consumer for almost everything under the sun complaining that their bank isn't making enough money?  Who's fault is that?  It sure isn't the consumer.  Most of these banks have their heads stuck up where the sun doesn't shine and they have the nerve to say that they don't see anything wrong.  I got a news flash for them....YOUR PROCTOLOGIST CALLED AND THEY FINALLY FOUND YOUR HEAD.
Nov 3, 2011 12:56AM

I cancelled my B of A account, it wasn't very much but I closed the savings and checking both.


I also gave up the debit card, not only did my local Credit Union issue me another card on the spot, they also pay a dab more interest on my savings.


The lady sure did try to talk me out of it but there was three others there doing exactly the same thing. I  did have to buy new checks but all checking is free there anyway.


I see they cancelled that fee, but I still am not going back.  Stick with the little banks and Creidt Unions, they are way better.

Nov 3, 2011 8:08AM

They won't be getting any more fees from me no matter how they hide them. I changed to a CU as soon as I got notification of the fees. Banks can be for profit all they want. I chose to go to a non profit CU and I get to keep my money and I even make a little back.


If it wasn't such a hassle to change banks I'm sure a lot more people would do it.

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