Debit card fees: Outrage triggers backlash against BofA

Bank_of_America_ATM_machines
Debit card fees announced by Bank of America are sparking outrage among consumers who turned to social media with their vows to switch banks, boycott Bank of America and otherwise show their condemnation of the banking giant's controversial move.

Bank of America announced Thursday it would charge customers $5 a month to make purchases with debit cards -- a fee that could cost consumers up to $60 a year and raise a stunning $3 billion a year for the company. The outrage was swift and immediate, with many customers vowing to drop the bank. And at least one potentially influential voice challenged President Obama to take action.

"Dear President Obama: You want people to think you're still for real? Blast Bank of America. Today." tweeted Andy Borowitz on his popular site, The Borowitz Report.

Borowitz and many others are infuriated by the notion that these fees are the "thanks" that the American public gets after bailing out the banking industry.

But Americans won't be rushing to help out banks anytime soon, if this backlash is any indication:

-- "Let them go broke and out of business!" and "I'll drop them like a hot rock," said commenters at the financial website, The Street.

-- "These banks need to lose all their customers and have their market cap tank. This is a perfect example of gouging the consumer," said a reader on Yahoo's Finance report.

-- "Bank of America is going to charge me $5 a month for the convenience of using ATMs? How about their convenience of not paying tellers?"

That last comment was tweeted by Jason Herskowitz of Brooklyn. He works for a tech start-up company and joked that he uses his BofA debit card so much "it doesn't work anymore, the magnetic strip is gone."

But those days are over. Herskowitz told the Times that he won't have to deal with the new fees, which start in 2012, because he'll already have a new bank by then.

"Done," he said. "I don't have any loyalty to BofA. It's not like they were doing anything particularly special for me. It's not like I have a relationship with a teller. The only time I have been inside a branch was to set up my account."

He said he understands that companies are always looking for ways to raise revenue for shareholders -- but that such a fee is not the best way to do it. And he wonders whether Bank of America is already regretting its decision.

"I don't see the upside to Bank of America for this. Multiple banks out there are already going to completely capitalize on this. They are already figuring out ways to get BofA customers moved over."

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--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Reuters / Fred Prouser

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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