The lower- to middle-income groups will be most affected due not only to the fee but the higher minimum balances required to avoid the fees.
- John Kottmeyer
Adjunct professor at Samford University’s Brock School of Business
I’ve been a Bank of America customer since 2003, but that might be changing. It’s not me Bank of America should worry about; it’s all of my options.
A few weeks ago, I signed up for mint.com as a way to manage my money while I’m here at school. Mint, along with its free iPhone app, helps me keep track of my spending and sends me alerts when it notices increased spending in a specific area or I com close to exceeding my budgeted amount.
As part of mint’s services, I was also given recommendations for banking and credit options that would save me money in the long-run compared to my current accounts.
Because BoA has branches or ATMs in almost any location I travel, I skipped the recommendation window and carried on with my budgeting.
Today, a change.org alert arrived in my inbox.
Seems my bank is going to start charging me a monthly fee for using my debit card. Admittedly, $5/month isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but the fee runs contrary to my principles and shows a lack of technological trend understanding on the part of the bank.
According to the BBC, BoA received $20 billion in the banking bailout as well as $18 billion in guarantees against bad assets. I don’t know the exact math, but I’m guessing my portion of that bailout more than covers my $5/mo. fees for the rest of my natural life.
This is to say nothing of the fact that charging new loophole fees in the face of federal regulations designed to stop banks from charging predatory fees is bad PR. Charging businesses for running credit/debit transactions as well as customers for using debit cards makes it easy to paint BoA as greedy, uncaring and unscrupulous. I don’t know that this is the case, but the new fee doesn’t make it difficult to connect the dots.
Ethics and PR aside, the fee has me worried that BoA has no eye on the future of transactions. In five years (as a generous estimate) my debit card won’t exist. My transactions, whether they take place in a physical or virtual space, will happen through my phone. My personal QR code or whatever comes after QR codes will be my method of payment. My wallet will be where I carry my license and maybe a business card. Companies like levelup and Starbucks are already setting the stage for the transition.
Creating a fee scheme around a card destined for extinction is shortsighted and a waste of corporate momentum.
In a pre-digital world, such a move made sense. I needed to travel to a physical space to shut down my account and then another physical space to open a new account. My bank can be virtual. BoA can lose my business without my ever having to talk to another human being. Of course, I will talk to human beings, namely my friends and family as I share why I made the change, how easy it was and how much I’m projected to save over the next three years.
For now, my money is staying put and my accounts are open.
I’ve added my name to the change.org petition and I’m hopeful the right people at BoA are checking their e-mail. If not, my new bank is only a few clicks away.
I’ll let you know.