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Bank of America to charge $5 debit card fee
NEW YORK (AP) — Bank of America plans to start charging customers a $5 monthly fee for using their debit card for purchases.
The fee will be rolled out early next year.
A number of banks either have instituted or are testing such fees. Bank of America’s announcement carries added weight because it is the largest U.S. bank by deposits.
Anne Pace, a Bank of America Corp. spokeswoman, said Thursday that customers will be charged the fee only if they use their debit cards for purchases in any given month. Customers won’t be charged if they use their cards only at an ATM.
The fee will apply to basic accounts and will be in addition to any monthly fees customers already are charged. For example, one of the bank’s basic accounts already charges a $12 monthly fee unless customers meet certain conditions, such as maintaining a minimum average balance of $1,500.
A fee for using debit cards is still a novel concept for many consumers and was unheard of before this year. But there are signs it soon will become an industry norm.
SunTrust, a regional bank based in Atlanta, began charging a $5 debit card fee on its basic checking accounts this summer. Regions Financial, which is based in Birmingham, Ala., notified customers this summer that it will charge a $4 monthly fee starting next month.
Chase and Wells Fargo also are testing $3 monthly debit card fees in select markets. Neither bank has said when it will make a final decision on whether to roll out the fee more broadly.
The debit card fee isn’t the only unwelcome change for checking account customers are seeing. The banking industry has been raising fees and scaling back on rewards programs as they adjust to new regulations that will limit traditional revenue sources.
Starting Oct. 1, a regulation will cap the fees that banks can collect from merchants whenever customers swipe their debit cards. Those fees generated $19 billion in revenue for banks in 2009, according to the Nilson Report, which tracks the payments industry.
There is no similar cap for the fees that banks can collect from merchants when customers use their credit cards, however. That means banks increasingly may encourage customers to reach for their credit cards, reversing a trend toward debit card usage in the past several years.
Ms. Pace said the new debit card fee will be rolled out in stages, starting with select states in early 2012. She did not say which states would be affected first.
Bank of America shares rose 9 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $6.25 in afternoon trading.
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