The current climate of low interest rates, slow economic growth and limits on service charges have been putting stress on the banking industry and big banks have been quietly making moves to increase their revenue.
Last fall, customers were able to influence Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo to back down from plans to impose $5 monthly debit card fees. But the Wall Street Journal reports that Bank of America is revising its stance and is now weighing the possibility of implementing a new wave of checking fees nationwide.
The plan is already in effect in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts, where Bank of America is testing a pilot program that charges $6 to $9 per month for a basic “Essentials” account. Other new account options carry monthly charges of $9, $12, $15 and $25 that can be avoided by “maintaining minimum balances, using a credit card or taking a mortgage with Bank of America.”
Bank of America spokeswoman Anne Pace told ABC News that the bank has been testing these banking options for over a year and is still considering whether or not they will be fully implemented.
“Our primary objective is to give our customer more reasons to do more business with us,” Pace said. “Whatever we decide will be done with that core principle in mind.”
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said in a recent investor conference that it costs the bank about $300 a year to maintain the average bank account. 85 percent of customers of the country’s two largest banks (JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America) currently qualify for free checking.
As such, Bank of America is not the only institution testing or imposing fees. According to the Associated Press:
- Since November, Wells Fargo has charged customers $15 a month for checking accounts unless the customer has three Wells Fargo accounts, maintains a balance of at least $7,500 or has a Wells Fargo mortgage.
- Since December, Citibank has charged customers $20 a month unless they maintain a minimum balance of $15,000. The previous balance requirement was $6,000. Citibank also charges $2 for every non-Citi ATM transaction if the balance falls below the minimum.
Pace says that Bank of America customers have not been as outraged by the fees as one might assume.
“Customers see the value and associated feedback has been very positive,” Pace said. “So far, the solutions are working the way they were designed—more customers are taking advantage of the full breadth of products and services the bank offers to give them the financial control they seek.”