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A recent study by Mintel Comperemedia, a mouthful of a marketing research firm, found that only one in five Americans would be willing to pay a $2 monthly debit card fee.A full 56% said they would use a different payment method, were they confronted with the fee. Two dollars is not that much money! But consumers won the battle over debit card fees, so the point is moot, right?
Sort of. With customers and regulators patting themselves on the back in post-victorious fashion, some have failed to notice that banks are charging all sorts of innovative, strange fees.
Regardless of whether we think about banking fees in the right way, banks know that they have to tiptoe around the issue. Over the course of the year, banks have created fees for all sorts of services, some of which don’t really make sense — but they won’t get you upset because they aren’t for your debit card. Let’s take a look:
1. Online Bill Pay Fee: Banks love it when you do your banking online, right? Go to your local bank branch for proof positive of this; assuming it’s an older building you should see about one actual teller for every six teller windows. We can do so much banking with cards and computers nowadays, banks hardly need to staff tellers like they used to. Because of the labour costs associated with branch banking, they often encourage people to do as much banking online as possible. But some banks have started charging fees for online banking services, even if it’s a money saver for them. Wells Fargo’s Value Checking account, for example, charges users $6.95 a month for online bill pay.
2. Mobile Deposit Fee: Remember how checking accounts cost a lot for banks to maintain because of all the time it takes banks to process paper checks? Mobile deposit — that is, depositing checks virtually with smartphone cameras — would appear to circumvent this labour-intensive process. But despite that, some banks will still charge you a fee for the service; U.S Bank charges $0.50 per check. And given the rapid growth of the market for the service, you shouldn’t be surprised if more banks start charging you for the convenience.
3. Phone Transfer Fee: PNC started charging between $2 and $3 for making teller-assisted transfers over the phone. BBVA Compass charges $3 for this service, too. The reason this seems a bit sneaky is because these services are free online and in-person at the branch, which runs somewhat counter to logic — shouldn’t banks want to keep us out of branches?
4. Savings Withdrawal Fees: Banks are allowed to limit you to six withdrawal and/or transfers from your savings or money market accounts per month — that’s a federal regulation. But the government never said these withdrawals are necessarily free, and whether or not they are free often depends on how much money you have with the bank. Bank of America charges $3 for every savings withdrawal over three in a month, unless you keep $2,500 with them in savings, in which case all six are free.
For PNC Bank, that number is a more modest $1,500, and they charge $3 per withdrawal after the third, too. The less money you have in savings, the more likely you are to be withdrawing regularly, and the more likely it is that you’ll be dinged for $3 every time you take your cash out of your account.
5. Card Replacement Fees: In the good old days, a lost debit card might have meant a panicked call to customer service to cancel your card (maybe you left it at a bar?), but at least your bank would send you a new card, no strings attached, right? Not anymore if you bank with BofA; you’ll be paying $5 for a new card. Remember to close out your tabs, guys. Your bartender hates you.
Read your fee disclosure forms carefully, kids. You never know what you’re gonna get charged for.