Front page in today’s WSJ was an article about how Bank of America is planning to start charging their customers $5 per month when they use their debit cards. Other banks are testing such fees.
Why the new fee?
According to the article, the fee is in response to a part in the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Bill that will limit the amount banks can charge businesses for transactions (“swipe fees”). Those fees have been capped at $.24 per transaction. They are currently $.44 per transaction. This change will supposedly cost banks $6 billion per year in lost revenue.
What’s funny (maybe funny is the wrong word) is this quote from Dick Durbin:
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who championed the legislative provision that led to the caps, said in a prepared statement: “After years of raking in excess profits off an unfair and anticompetitive interchange system, Bank of America is trying to find new ways to pad their profits by sticking it to its customers. It’s overt, unfair, and I hope their customers have the final say.”
Come on, Dick! Do you honestly think banks will just accept $6 billion in lost revenue? HARDLY! This is simply another case of how government involvement leads to unpleasant consequences (I was going to say “unplanned consequences” but I can’t see how new customer fees could be an unplanned consequence of new regulations).
This is a relatively small issue for me but one of the retailers I visit, Spec’s Liquor, has a two-tiered system for charging customers. Customers who pay with cash or debit card, receive a discount. Those who pay with credit card, do not. So, I’ll either have to pay with debit and incur a banking fee, pay with cash (I seldom carry cash), or use my credit card and forgo the discount.
I am happy to report that Christopher Dodd, Barney Frank, and Dick Durbin will be happy to reimburse you for your fees. Just send them the bill. (Unfortunately, that was a joke.)