First it was the airlines charging you $50 for the privilege of sending your bags to Topeka when you were flying non-stop to Toledo. Now America’s Big Banks are getting in on the action.
On September 29, 2011, Bank of America announced that it would begin charging customers $5 a month if you use your debit card at a point of sale. In addition, the charge will apply regardless of whether you select “debit” or “credit” as the transaction type. That means the dollar value meal you purchased with your debit card at the local fast food shop will now cost you six.
According to Bank of America, these new fees aren’t their fault. It turns out Congress recently passed a law that caps the amount of money that banks could charge retailers for each time a card is swiped in their store. In the past, the fee was $0.42 per swipe; but now it’s only $0.21 a swipe. The Big Banks claim this will cost them billions of dollars a year.
And when you look at it from the Big Banks’ perspective, it makes senses. Think about it this way: in the past a struggling bank executive could take his family, including first cousins once removed, on a private jet and spend a month or two sipping a nice glass of Pernod-Ricard Perrier-Jouet on an exclusive resort off the coast of France. Now that same executive will be reduced to sipping Dom Perignon instead. Oh, the humanity!
And it’s not just Bank of America who’s suffering. Wells Fargo, a company who reported over $21.4 billion in revenues last year is hurting; as is poor, poor J.P. Morgan Chase who can barely scrape by on its $17.4 billion in annual earnings. It’s getting so ridiculous that, according to rumors, several bank executives have been forced to reduce their household staff to only one upstairs maid. They’re practically living in the stone- age!
The Big Banks weren’t going to take this indignity lying down in their lavish villas. They did what any put upon billionaire would do. They hopped on their luxury yachts and called their best people to come up with a solution.
Of course, the solution was obvious. The Big Banks just said, “Remember those taxpayers who so generously loaned us $12 billion dollars in bailout money? Isn’t it about time we thanked them for their generosity.”
So that’s what we’re all seeing now. The extra fees to maintain a checking account – thank you America. The fees for the privilege of you letting them use your money – thank you America.
In fairness, the Big Banks aren’t going to charge all debit card users. Apparently it gnawed at their conscious too much. So after a few sleepless nights, Bank of America decided to give its wealthiest customers a break and exempt Platinum Privilege members from the charges. After all, they wouldn’t want their fellow corporate executives to have to give up those upstairs maids either. How generous!
Don’t worry about the good people at the Big Banks. They’ll be able to purchase that villa in Sweden next year by coming up with new and more creative fees. If the airlines have taught us anything it’s that everything has a price, even crappy meals served at 30,000 feet.
In the future, you can probably expect Big Banks to charge you a fee for talking to a teller, driving through their parking lot and saying their name in public. And all the while, they’ll be asking you, the good people who were so kind to bail them out of bankruptcy, to bend over and say, “Thank you sir, may I have another.”
So how can you avoid these Big Bank fees?
Option one: Pay with cash. It was good enough for Grandma. It should be good enough for you. Option two: Switch to credit cards. Of course, there’s no guarantee the Big Banks won’t tack an extra “bend over and take it” charge onto your credit card purchases as well. Option three: Remember that commune you thought about joining right after you graduated from college? Option four: Cancel your account with the Big Banks. Put your money into a local bank or credit union. Option five: Follow Great Uncle Couter’s advice and stuff your mattress with ten dollar bills. Not only will you avoid Big Bank fees, you’ll also keep those pesky revenuers off your tail.
I don’t know about you, but I plan to stop by Uncle Couter’s house this weekend.
(Note: opinions expressed here are completely my own and don’t represent the thoughts or actions of any other person or organization.)