Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) would now charge a $5 monthly fee for debit card usage as Dodd-Frank Act's Durbin amendment would become effective Oct. 1.
"At this time, we are just letting our customers know that we plan to introduce a $5 monthly usage fee for customers who use their debit cards for purchases, beginning in early 2012 with phased rollout throughout the year. If your account is impacted, you will be notified of this change in writing at least 30 days in advance," Bank of America tweeted.
However, customers will only be charged if they use their debit cards for purchases in any given month, Anne Pace, a Bank of America spokeswoman, said in a statement.
The announcement from Bank of America comes at time when banks are scrambling to generate new sources of revenue. Profits of major banks, including Bank of America, are hurt by low interest rates and higher capital requirements coupled with a weak demand for loans due to the sluggish economy.
The Durbin Amendment gave the Federal Reserve the power to regulate debit card interchange fees. In June, Fed said the maximum permissible interchange fee that an issuer could receive for an electronic debit transaction would be the sum of 21 cents per transaction and 5 basis points multiplied by the value of the transaction.
As a result, a covered issuer eligible for the fraud-prevention adjustment could receive an interchange fee of up to about 24 cents for the average debit card transaction, which is valued at $38.
If banks started to charge higher fees on checking accounts to recover lost debit-card revenue, it could push perhaps 5 percent of current bank customers out of the system and into the use of check-cashing stores and other nonbank financial services.
U.S. banks, including Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) and SunTrust Banks Inc. (NYSE: STN), have been experimenting with higher monthly account maintenance fees, higher minimum balances to avoid fees, specific charges to have a debit card, or per-use charges for debit-card transactions.
Some banks already began charging fees for debit card usage. SunTrust began charging a $5 debit card fee on its basic checking accounts this summer, while Regions Financial plans to start charging a $4 fee next month.
For most banks, the revenue each major bank would have to recover per checking account on average to offset the 75 percent revenue loss comes in the range of $4 to $6 per month per checking account.
Averaged across 25 million to 35 million checking accounts for the very large banks, that is a lot of revenue to recover, but it seems that somewhere between 50 percent and 75 percent of that revenue can be recovered over time.
Sen. Dick Durbin had pointed out repeatedly on the Senate floor on June 7 that about 50 percent of the entire banking industry's debit card revenue went to Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan.
Charging a fee for using debit cards is still a novel concept for many consumers, who feel why they should pay the bank for using their money. But there are signs it may soon become an industry norm.
Meanwhile, people took to social media and expressed their frustration through Twitter:
Peter Skeritt tweeted: "Welp. Looks like I'll be closing my Bank of America account before the year is out. Fees mean more revenue only if you have customers."
Another Twitter user said: "Okay bank of america, want to charge for debbit card use? You won't be getting me back as a customer."
Kiz Mayas said: "Bank of America is about to start charging people five dollars a month to use a debt card. That's right, five dollars to use YOUR MONEY!!!!!
Dani Moore tweeted: "I'd love to see a MASSIVE campaign - everyone close your Bank of America account and bank somewhere else."
Cerrome Russell said: "Bank of America is gonna end up losing alot more customers and a lot more revenue than they were worried about in the 1st place."