Bank of America refrains from charging debit card usage

Oliver Ortega

Bank of America announced it would not implement a new monthly debit card fee Tuesday, days after competitors JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo said they were abandoning similar plans.

The fee was a way to recuperate revenue lost due to new federal limits on the amount banks can charge merchants for debit card transactions.

Bank of America announced in late September it would implement a $5 monthly debit card fee for customers who have less than $20,000 in their accounts.

Soon after, Chase, Wells Fargo and other banks announced they would be testing out similar fees.

“Our customers’ voices are most important to us,” said David Darnell, Bank of America co-chief operating officer in a press release Tuesday. “As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so.”

Out of 10 Northwestern students polled, a majority said they would dislike having to pay a monthly debit card fee.

McCormick sophomore Bryan Maldonado said he uses his debit card almost every day and he doesn’t want to pay a monthly surcharge.

“If I found a bank that didn’t have a fee, I’d change banks just to avoid a fee,” Maldonado said.

However, Weinberg sophomore Andrew Schneider said he thinks the fees are necessary to maintain client rewards programs and overall good service.

“Paying higher fees is never fun, but on the other hand the rewards program and all those things have to come from somewhere,” Schneider said.

More than 300,000 people signed a online petition asking for Bank of America to scrap its proposed debit card fee, and protesters gathered outside of two Bank of America branches in Miami and a JPMorgan Chase bank branch in Seattle.

Molly Katchpole, author of the petition, said she believes the surcharge would be unjustified, especially “at a time when people are pissed off across the country.”

“It’s frustrating they would turn around and ask us for more money to use our own money,” Katchpole said.

Katchpole, who graduated from Roger Williams University in May, said she joined Bank of America because there was a branch near her campus.

She said many college students would have been negatively affected by the new fee.

“When you’re in college you’re thrifting on everything,” Katchpole said. “You don’t want to spend too much.”

Unlike Bank of America, U.S. Bank never announced it would implement an additional monthly charge.

Amy Frantti, assistant vice president of media relations for U.S. Bank, said in an email the bank still has no plans to do so.

U.S. Bank has a branch on the ground floor of the Norris Student Center and ATM locations throughout campus.

Weinberg freshman Danielle Rosenberg, a client of U.S. Bank, said she would put up with a monthly fee of a few dollars because her bank is the only one on campus.

“My bank is the one around here so it’d be more difficult to access a bank account (from a different bank),” Rosenberg said.

Bank of America reported a $6.2 billion gain last quarter. President Barack Obama criticized the debit card fee for being profit-driven and mistreating customers.

McCormick junior Brian Lange said he agrees banks overcharge customers with ATM fees and other surcharges and said a new fee would have to be justified.

“I would definitely need to be convinced that there would be a reason other than just making more money,” Lange said.

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