Somewhere a bank executive in an office building near Wall Street was reading the Declaration of Independence, when a light bulb lit up over his head as he read the line “…all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” In short, if you’re used to something, you’ll probably suffer with it rather than expend the effort to change it.
I had a WTF moment last night during a broadcast of NBC’s Nightly News broadcast when dependable Brian reported that beginning Thursday, Bank of America would begin charging customers a monthly $5 fee just for using their debit cards… In fact before I realized I’d done it, I jumped up and yelled “WHAT???” at the top of my lungs (scaring the hell out of my cat sleeping peacefully beside me.)
The only thing that immediately came to mind was to wonder if Bank of America had recently hired suicidal financial advisors away from Netflix. Upon further research (in fear that my own bank was next,) I discovered that Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase are plotting to do the same. This is definitely going to cause a customer backlash akin to the one that resulted in the Durbin amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act that limits the fees that banks can charge stores etc. for debit card purchases. In fact, this is probably the result of that amendment. Banks are famous for having a reserve of lawyers who go over federal regulations in advance to find ways around them before they’re even signed into law, so we naïve Americans should’ve seen this coming (refer back to the first paragraph of this article.)
After all Wall Street execs can’t survive without their 7-figure bonus checks every year.
For a decade or so now, the banks have plotted to do away with paper money, turning America into a plastic society. As a result, most Americans pay with debit cards for everything from a quick hamburger on the fly at the neighborhood McDonald’s to movie tickets with the family at the local theater. The banks loved this concept because they used to be able to get away with charging insane overdraft fees on each and every transaction if you momentarily lost track of your balance, and at the end of the month those last 12 morning coffees at Burger King on your way to work ran $35 each because you were overdrawn by a mere 16 cents; and they joyfully got away with it because at the time Wall Street owned and operated the GOP-led congress that made it all legal!
Like a good heroin dealer, they get you addicted to it by making it free and then when you can’t live without it they start charging you a bundle for it. This is the same trick that credit cards used on us lower middle classers. I had a great credit card with a wonderful interest rate on my purchases and I’d loyally used it for years faithfully ignoring fantasy-laced balance-transfer offers. One day I got a letter in the mail saying a predatory bank had bought my account and now all those little perks like free rental car insurance, no annual fees, and that low-low finance rate was now “a limited time only” deal and I’d now be paying 21.9% on my purchases. Oh but not to worry they gleefully assured – if I didn’t like it, it was really easy to fix… all I’d have to do is pay off that $4000 balance in a lump sum that I ran up before they bought the company, and go somewhere else.
I realized that the banks had learned the same lesson when I recently also had a perk-filled free checking account that earned a decent interest rate… then another bank bought them. Within months, that free safe deposit box was gone, those “points” that I was earning suddenly vanished, and then I was forced to close my savings account and transfer it to my checking account to satisfy a minimum balance requirement… of course this meant earning a much lower checking interest rate. Then I was informed that if I didn’t keep at least $500 in my new checking account I wouldn’t earn any interest at all, plus I’d be charged a minimum balance fee if it fell below $100 at any time! Meanwhile my money was merrily being loaned out to other victims like myself at high rates that guaranteed my bank a very healthy profit margin.
So far I’ve been lucky, but with all of the online banks competing for my deposits and transactions, my current bank should be forewarned that I’m gone if they start charging me just to use my debit card. The reason being that I’ll have to start withdrawing my checks the moment they’re direct deposited and paying cash, resulting in minimum balance fees and no interest at all… which is what they want in the first place. And there’s not a damned thing I can do about it, because I need a checking account to pay bills electronically… unless I want to pay a couple of dollars each for money orders to mail in payments.
And I’ll probably sit here and take it, because they know I’ll figure it’s too much of a hassle to change banks, and if I did the new bank would probably do the same thing anyway so why not keep my money where it is?
… Again back to the first paragraph …which is where we’re all stuck. (sigh)Powered by Sidelines