Bank of America may pull back on debit-card fee

The Charlotte ObserverOctober 29, 2011 

Bank of America Corp., under continued pressure from consumers, shareholders and politicians, will likely make it easier for more customers to avoid a $5 monthly debit-card fee, a source familiar with the plans said Friday.

The Charlotte lender, the nation's second-largest bank by deposits, is likely to allow many customers to avoid the charges by maintaining minimum balances, having paychecks direct-deposited or using Bank of America credit cards, the person said.

The bank's original plans imposed much stricter requirements for avoiding the fee, such as having a mortgage with the bank or keeping as much as $20,000 between deposits and investment accounts.

Two of Bank of America's major competitors also stepped back from debit-card fees Friday. Wells Fargo & Co., citing "customer feedback," said it would cancel its planned five-state test of a monthly $3 fee for debit-card users. And New York-based J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., which has been testing a $3 charge in some markets since February, said Friday it will end the test and won't implement the fee.

Other big banks' reluctance to follow Bank of America's lead "is kind of indicative of how the industry is going to play it," said Nancy Bush, a contributing editor with SNL Financial.

Bank of America first announced the debit-card fees Sept. 29 in response to a new law capping the "swipe fees" banks can charge merchants whose customers pay with their debit cards. It plans to roll out the charges beginning next year.

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