Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

The Rise and Fall of the Debit-Card Fee

This summer, Chase began a test program that charged a small number of customers a fee to use their debit card. It was an attempt to make up for revenue lost because of new regulations intended to halt overdraft abuses and cap so-called interchange fees, which merchants pay when customers use debit cards for purchases. Soon, Wells Fargo, SunTrust and Regions all announced similar plans. But it was Bank of America's announcement of a $5 monthly fee for debit-card use that ignited a backlash of epic proportions. Customers began closing their BofA accounts and switching to smaller banks and credit unions. Bank of America's stock dropped. A Facebook-driven Bank Transfer Day urged the masses to dump their big, evil banking institutions. And guess what. The people won, kind of. BofA, Wells Fargo and Chase all backed off their plans to charge debit-card fees. Why kind of? Analysts are expecting banks to impose other subtler and more palatable fees to make up for lost revenue.