Bank of America Corp. customers have reason to be concerned again.
The nation’s second-largest bank is planning to charge basic checking accounts a monthly fee unless customers agree to purchase more products or maintain minimum balances, according to the Wall Street Journal. Other banks are doing the same, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.
Bank of America is piloting programs in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts, with charges ranging from $6 to $9 a month for its “Essential” account. Other accounts in those states carry charges up to $25.
Customers avoid these charges by keeping a minimum balance, using a credit card or taking a mortgage with Bank of America.
The new program comes after last year when the bank posted a $26.2 billion drop, or 22 percent, from 2009 levels, according to the Journal.
Some are calling for action from Bank of America customers over the new fees.
“We are wary generally of banks charging fees, which have grown to be a highly lucrative source of revenue for them, and also punitive for consumers,” Bart Naylor, an expert in financial regulation at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, told MSNBC.com. “Bank of America and other banks are probing to see what the market will bear, and we think it’s good for consumers to respond to that the way they know best — either by changing to another bank, or by considering a credit union, which tends to be more genial.”
Others think the company is simply taking action now that it has been backed up to an economic wall.
Philip W. van Doom, a banking and finance writer for TheStreet, said that these fees are different than the $5 monthly charge the bank implemented last year because now “the company has no choice.”
“It appears that Bank of America is following a well-thought-out plan this time to address a long-term revenue and expense problem,” Doom said in his article. “The self-styled ‘consumer activists’ will be clamoring, once again, for you to switch over to a credit union. Fine. But keep in mind, you will be giving up free access to a national network of 17,750 ATMs.”