You can tell that the tide of corporate sentiment is shifting when one of the nation’s largest companies changes course following customer outrage and the growing anti-Wall street movement. Especially when this company is a bank that has historically acted with impunity around bank fees. A person familiar with the bank’s plans, said that Bank of America is considering softening or even postponing its controversial policy of charging some customers for making purchases with their debit cards. Banks had been testing the charging of fees on debit cards and checking accounts to offset declining fee revenue following new legislation and stronger competition. Debit cards generally generate less profit for banks than credit cards.
Many other big banks, seeing real public outrage, have already promised their customers that they won’t impose the debit card fees that have sparked a backlash against Bank of America. CNN reports that JP Morgan Chase, the country’s biggest bank, has decided not to charge customers for debit card purchases. The decision follows a test of the debit card fee the bank began in two states in February, that will now be stopped. Wells Fargo also announced late Friday that it is canceling the debit card fee it was planning to introduce in five states.
“We will continue to stay attuned to what our customers want,” said Ed Kadletz, head of Wells Fargo’s debit card division.
In fact, mid-tier banks such as ING Direct (now owned by Capital One) and Ally have already seen big boosts in their free checking accounts, as customers switch to no-fee banking options. Three in 10 customers are threatening to leave their bank if adverse fee policies are imposed, according to a poll from research firm The Research Intelligence Group
Following years of record profits, overpaid CEOs and tax payer bailouts its good to see that customer pressure is finally making the banks change their fee increasing habits. While some will still proceed with fee increases out of economic necessity, customers always have options to switch to no-fee checking accounts. The best protest is not with words, but with your wallet.