Bank of America Testing Markets with New Fees

A Bank of America spokesperson says fees are being tested in certain markets “to learn from those tests before we make any final decisions,” according to Forbes. Programs being tested in Georgia, Arizona and Massachusetts have fees of $6 to $9 a month on what is being called an “Essentials” account. Monthly fees of $9, $12, $15 and $25 are also being tested, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Customers must maintain minimum balances, have a mortgage with Bank of America, or use a credit card to avoid certain fees. Other requirements include banking online. The Journal also reports Bank of America employees in the Northeast are being trained for the first phase of a national program and that people close to the bank are saying that Chief Executive Brian Moynihan is determined to move forward.
Efforts to organize boycotts of Bank of America are credited with being partially responsible for Bank of America’s decision to drop plans for a $5-per-month debit card fee last year. Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, encouraged the bank’s customers to “vote with your feet.” The public outcry resulted in other banks dropping debit card fees as well, though Bank of America received most of the criticism.

Brian Moynihan pushed to reduce the bank’s reliance on revenue from overdraft fees. Customers who hit negative account balances due to purchases encountered significant fees. Many customers were obviously having financial difficulties already and it was viewed as being particularly tough on lower-income customers. Bank of America lost $1.7 billion in annual revenue when they eliminated overdraft charges. The bank lost another $2 billion a few months later when the Dodd-Frank law reduced what financial institutions can charge merchants who accept payments by credit and debit cards. Revenue was down by 22 percent for Bank of America in 2011 from its level in 2009. A decrease of $26.2 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Low interest rates, a poor economy and new government limits on most types of service charges place all banks in a predicament. They must find ways to increase their revenue by motivating customers to do more business with them without the customers feeling penalized.

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