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Bank of America’s $5 Debit Fee Making Many Customers Change Where They Bank

written by: •edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 10/18/2011

It’s hard for the average consumer to feel much sympathy for banks and their lost portfolio revenues these days. When Bank of America announced customers would be charged a fee for debit cards, angry customers fought back (sort of).

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    That Will Be Five Dollars Please

    Screenshot Ellen DeGeneres YouTube Video on BofA Fees I must say I am not a Bank of America customer, nor am I interested in becoming one. I prefer those smaller independent banks where everyone really does know your name and branches have presidents, not a head teller who will have to check with upper management and “get back to you."

    This mega giant bank did upset its customers in September of this year when it announced a monthly $5 fee would be charged for using debit cards beginning in January of 2012. The number of times you use the debit card doesn’t matter—1, 10 or 20—the $5 fee applies. And, it doesn’t matter whether you run the card as debit or credit when the purchase is made.

    You can choose to not use the debit card at all and no fee will be deducted from your account, but for goodness sakes, what’s the point of even getting a debit card if you’re charged money to use it?

    Ellen DeGeneres, in her own comedic style, made fun of Bank of America (BofA) and its new fees on her daily television show “Ellen." There’s a great YouTube video from her show so if you want a laugh, you can watch it here.

    While Ellen’s video will leave you laughing, most BofA customers are not laughing and some are fighting back. Dan Freed of MAINSt.com reported that “Andrew Plepler, Bank of America's global corporate social responsibility executive, told Molly Katchpole, a the 22-year-old Bank of America customer who launched an online petition asking the bank to cancel the fee that doing so would be "premature," but that "we constantly listen to our customer feedback."

    Kudos for Ms. Katchpole for attempting a petition but they very often don’t work and in my opinion, your best bet here to avoid the $5 fee is to change banks because Mr. Plepler is not interested in your customer feedback.

    It wasn’t all that long ago when banks needed some help and cried about how their investment portfolios were the lowest in history and they lost money too! Sorry BofA, tell it to Joe the Plumber or the Average Joe for that matter. We simply can’t equate having billions of dollars and asking us to shell out five more bucks to aid you in your losses. You should have paid more attention to your balance sheet.

    Banks and large corporation giants can and do get bailouts or protection from the U.S. Government, but the average person—nope, never gonna happen.

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    Fees, Fees and More Fees!

    BofA Robbing You of Your Money I started wondering about all the fees Bank of America charges because when I researched this story, CNN Money’s Blake Ellis reported on the $5 fee “…customers with certain premium accounts will be exempt from the charge." So off I headed to Bankofamerica.com to look at their fees, and this is where I really felt bad for their customers.

    You can check out the list of personal banking fees from BofA on your own (a link is provided in the references section) but I must say, who can afford to bank at this bank?

    The schedule of fees sort of reminds me of trying to decipher IRS laws when trying to determine if you’re eligible for an exemption or deduction. You know what I mean - those IRS worksheets where you fill in a number, check a box or three and then move along the arrow-provided journey to find out if indeed you can take a deduction based on your worksheet answers.

    The BofA schedule is a lot like this. There are minimum amounts for opening checking and savings accounts and then listed fees and then ways to avoid the fees and then the “other important information" section you better read because there may be hidden circumstances within these important terms that affect the account. Really BofA?

    What’s next? If you open an account with a month ending in “R" and you have red hair you may be able to waive the fee but only if your last name also ends in an “R!"

    The only account from BofA I would consider is the under 18 bank account they offer. You only need $25 to open the account and the monthly fee is waived, but you can’t skip the must-read other important information:

    • After you turn 18, we automatically convert your Minor Savings to a Regular Savings account.
    • Each monthly statement cycle you can make three withdrawals/transfers with no Excess Withdrawal fee.
    • If you maintain a minimum daily balance of $300 or more in your savings account, you may make additional withdrawals/transfers with no Excess Withdrawal fee. Otherwise, the Excess Withdrawal fee is $1.00 for each withdrawal/transfer during the statement cycle above the three. This fee applies to withdrawals and transfers at ATMs, teller lines, by telephone and by any other electronic means.
    • Federal regulations and our deposit agreement place limits on certain types of transfers from savings accounts. See "Transaction Limits for Savings Accounts" on page 13.

    So basically when you are 17 ¾ it’s time to close that BofA account or you will pay fees (or at least I think you will, I couldn’t find “page 13.")

    By the by, the $5 debit fee beginning in January of 2012 will also be applied to the under 18 banking accounts they offer. Sure little Tommy works two times a week flipping burgers and now you want to take $5 bucks from his bottom line just because he wants to take his sweetie to the latest blockbuster movie and buy her some popcorn. Boo hoo on you BofA!

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    Will You Change Banks?

    Five Dollars to BofA Customers If you’re a Bank of America customer is this latest fee what pushed you over the edge and will you be changing where you bank? I know if it was me, I’d be checking out banks and credit unions real fast to see where I could get the best deal, take all my money away from BofA and say, thanks but no thanks.

    Personally, I can’t recommend a bank for you to explore or change to, but I will tell you that often those smaller, independent banks are a little more personal. Because each branch seems to have a head person in charge, they often have the power to waive fees or even discount fees (I know this because I’ve asked for these things at my independent bank and received them). Of course you will probably have to give the small independent bank something back, like commit all of your accounts to them, but in the long run, you’ll still have your $5 bucks and when you drive by a BofA branch you can wave it out the window with pride! “Here’s my five bucks BofA and it’s all mine, mine, mine!"

    Are you changing banks? Drop me a comment below and let’s talk about this BofA disaster.