The Spectacle Blog

It’s Not Bank of America Charging New Fees on Debit Cards…

By on 9.30.11 | 10:20AM

...it's Congress. David Indiviglio at The Atlantic explains that Bank of America's annoucement that it will institute a $5 fee on debit card accounts is a direct result of regulations in the Dodd-Frank bill. 

The only thing surprising about this news is that anyone Congress was so blind to reality that they expected anything different. Did they really believe that banks would just shrug when their revenues declined by billions of dollars? Since they can't get as much money from customers indirectly through debit interchange fees paid by retailers any longer, they're going the direct route and charging customers for using debit. 

And retailers won't lower prices by a commensurate amount, meaning that lower-income folks will feel the pain: 

As I pointed out on Wednesday, retailers aren't cutting prices. Instead, they're pocketing the $7 billion or so they'll save in fees. While this could theoretically change in the future, they have indicated that they aren't cutting prices at this time.

So customers will end up paying more than they did before once this new law goes into effect, but not because the banks are creating a "new" fee, but because the government forbid them to make full use of their old one. This financial regulation effort will amount to a gift to retailers, courtesy of Congress.

As I also pointed out, in particular, this action by Congress will hurt low- to middle-income Americans more than wealthier Americans. Banks find it very important to cultivate relationships with their wealthier customers, because they want their high deposits and to sell them other financial services. So banks' wealthiest customers will likely escape fees like this. Instead, less affluent Americans will end up paying more than their fair share.

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