Less than five months after Bank of America (BAC) backtracked on its $5 monthly debit card fee, the country's second largest U.S. bank is considering charging its millions of customers another fee. This time the fee would be for the use of a bank checking account, or what the bank calls an "Essentials" account. (See: Public Outrage Prompts Bank of America, Wells and Chase to Rethink Debit Fees)
The timing and certainty of the changes remains unclear, but the bank is already testing two options for the rollout in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts, reports The Wall Street Journal.
#1 Flat, Across the Board Fee: Some customers in those three states are currently paying a monthly across the board fee of between $6 and $9 to use Bank of America's checking services.
#2 Conditional Fee: At the same time, some customers in those test-states are being charged a range of fees between $9 and $25 for a checking account, but have been given the option to avoid the additional cost if they keep a minimum balance or opt in to using other Bank of America services.
EDITOR'S NOTE The Daily Ticker reached out to Bank of America for a comment in response to The Wall Street Journal article Thursday morning. After 3 pm here is the statement we received:
Media reports this morning provided inaccurate information. Bank of America is not planning to increase checking account fees with our existing customers.
Since January 2011, Bank of America has been testing checking account options for new accounts only, in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts.
Bank of America is continuing to learn from those tests and has not made any decisions about when, how, or if we would change our fees on new accounts.
Admittedly, no one likes paying more for the same service and at first mention many may balk at Bank of America's potential price increase. But as The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task and Breakout's Jeff Macke remind us in the accompanying video, Bank of America is in the business of making money, and if you don't like the fee structure, they suggest taking your money elsewhere.
That may prove a little more difficult in the post-Dodd Frank era, as many banks look to replace certain revenue streams that were squashed by the controversial banking regulation. JP Morgan Case (JPM) and Well Fargo (WFC) have already charge various fee to use their checking account services, which tend to otherwise be money-losers for the banks.
There is one issue, though, that Aaron has with this new practice of banks nickel and diming consumers for everything. "The problem I have is that we bailed them out -- as taxpayers we bailed them out," he says. "This is how they prepay me for bailing them out?"
Jeff, on the other hand, considers the new fees a small price to pay while reminding us just what we used to get in exchange for free checking: robo-signings and the mortgage crisis. He explains, before banks earned a lot of money from signing mortgages for people who could not afford them to pay them, which led to a run up in housing prices, an eventual burst of the housing bubble and people being thrown out of their homes. A nominal fee for checking is well worth the price when you consider the other options, he says.
Tell us what you think! Do you think it's fair to pay a monthly fee for the access to your checking account?