Bank Of America Fees, Angry customers protested, pushed back and ultimately prevailed in the fight last fall against Bank of America Corp.â€™s planned $5 debit card fee. But four months later, the Charlotte lender is still considering fees for other services that could boost profits â€“ and deliver the latest blow to the bankâ€™s public image.
Big banks have long been looking for ways to build revenue in an era of lower interest rates and regulations that limit the fees they can charge. When Bank of America began testing new account options with monthly fees ranging from $6 to $25 in three states last year,*n*lysts said it was part of an industrywide decline of free checking.
Those pilot programs in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts, which apply to new accounts and allow customers to avoid the fees by maintaining higher minimum balances, using their credit cards and taking other steps, continue.
The bank hasnâ€™t decided whether to roll out the changes nationally, and spokeswoman Anne Pace said Thursday Bank of America is not planning to increase checking account fees for existing customers.
The bank will continue to learn from its test programs before making any changes, she said.
â€śOur primary objective is to give our customers more reasons to do more business with us,â€ť Pace said. â€śWhatever we decide will be done with that core principle in mind. When we do finalize our plans, we will communicate with our customers.â€ť
Analysts say more fees are likely, though â€“ and they expect them to fuel a new wave of public outrage.
â€śMy first reaction is to question whether anyone at Bank of America understands banking,â€ť said Gary Townsend of Hill-Townsend Capital, a Maryland firm that invests in banks. â€śThe idea that you segregate your customers into good customers and bad customers just is not smart. Itâ€™s not good business.â€ť
Bank of Americaâ€™s total revenue declined 15 percent last year to about $94 billion. That was due in part to the $430 million the bank lost from new caps on the â€śswipe feesâ€ť banks charge merchants when consumers pay with their debit cards, an element of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
As that cap took effect last fall, some large lenders responded with monthly card fees. Wells Fargo and Co., the San Francisco bank that bought Charlotteâ€™s Wachovia in 2008, for instance, began testing a $3 monthly fee, while Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc. began charging $5.