What’s Up With Banks Charging for Debit Cards?

BET.com answers some frequently asked questions about recent announcements and rumors surrounding bank fees for checking accounts.

Posted: 10/03/2011 03:21 PM EDT

If you haven’t heard by now, debit card fees are on the rise and if your bank hasn’t mentioned any yet, it could be possible that your debit account, that once was free, could be charged monthly.

 

BET.com looks at some frequently asked questions about the recent change.

 

Which banks are currently charging for the use of a debit card?

 

According to Bankrate.com, so far First Tennessee (4 cents to 14 cents a transaction, up to $3), SunTrust ($5 per month) and Regions Bank ($4 per month) are some of the large banks that have started charging. However, as announced last week, even larger names such as Bank of America will begin charging a $5 monthly fee at the beginning of next year for customers who make debit card purchases.

 

If you don’t use your card at all will you be assessed a fee?

 

According to Bank of America’s new system, no. If you don’t use your card at all you will not be assessed a fee and you can still use the ATM as frequently as you like, says Anne Pace, a Bank of America spokeswoman.

 

Why are the banks all of a sudden charging fees?

 

According to the reports, the fees are a result of new rules limiting the revenue banks will be able to get from merchants. In effect this past weekend, a cap was placed on the fees banks can charge retailers every time customers swipe their debit cards.

 

How uncommon are free checking accounts?

 

According to a Bankrate.com survey released last week, just 45 percent of checking accounts are now free with no strings attached. This is a decreased amount from 65 percent last year and 76 percent in 2009. New records were also set for nonsufficient, or overdraft, fees and ATM fees.

 

Will there be similar changes with the use of my credit card?

 

Maybe not. In fact, banks are encouraging customers to use their credit cards. There is no cap that banks can collect from merchants when customers use their credit cards, so banks are hoping to reverse the trend of debit card use by encouraging customers to use their credit cards.

 

Is it worth switching from Bank of America to another large bank to avoid the fees?

 

Switching banks may not be worth the worry. In select markets JP Morgan Chase Bank and Wells Fargo are also testing $3 monthly debit card fees. Citibank has also recently notified many customers that they soon may have to start paying for their checking accounts unless they maintain significantly high balances. Other large banks could soon jump on board also because the merchant fees affect them too.

 

 

To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.

(Photo: Stelios Varias/REUTERS)

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