It’s was nice to feel like we won, at least for a short period of time.
Banks are once again dreaming up new fees to recoup losses that have come from tighter financial regulation as a result of the 2008 and 2009 financial collapse but until now it’s only been a dream.
What the Fees Are For
Happy March 1st to Bank of America (BAC:NYSE) customers who may have read the reports that the nation’s second largest bank is piloting a program in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts that would charge $6 to $9 for what they are calling the Bank Essentials program.
Taking away the marketing lingo, this means that customers will pay a monthly fee to have a checking account at Bank of America and it doesn’t stop there.
Other fees being tested by BAC include fee structures of $9, $12, $15 and $25, a price sure to turn off many customers.
Why Do They Need a New Fees Structure (or Why Are Customers Leaving?)
A recent survey by J.D. Power and Associates found that the number one reason that customers leave their bank for another is because of fees. This proves that customers don’t want to be charged by a bank that may be using their money to add to their own revenue stream, but that may not be entirely true.
New legislation severely limits a bank’s ability to use existing deposits as a way to make money.
That, along with the closure of many banks’ proprietary trading desks, have made consumer checking and savings accounts a net loss. Bank of America’s 2011 net revenue was $26.2 billion, a drop of 22% from its 2009 levels and other banks aren’t much better off. [source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/mickeymeece/2012/03/01/big-banks-are-on-the-hunt-for-new-fees/]
As Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said,
“The issue is when people flip their relationship and use our convenience and access…and online banking product and all that and have the relationship elsewhere that’s tough for us…”
His comments speak to the idea that in today’s economic environment, it’s unrealistic to think that a customer who uses a bank for nothing more than a checking and savings account will produce enough value for the bank that they can make that customer’s experience fee-free.
Perhaps major banks have their hands in too much these days to produce enough value in checking and savings for the customer to stay?
There’s Hope for Customers
Although BAC, and other banks, will ultimately charge fees for their services, BAC notes that for customers who use other products offered by the bank and keep a minimum balance on deposit, these fees will be greatly reduced or eliminated entirely.
Many customers may not see any fees due to the accounts and balances they already have. But for others, they will need to keep track of minimums or open up new account products to avoid the fees. Or they can pay the monthly fees.
This a la carte banking model may preserve some of the customers who would have gone elsewhere due to these new fees but history has shown that when a bank introduces new fees, community banks and credit unions pick up new customers.
According the same JD Power and Associates survey, “Acquisition of new customers by smaller banks and credit unions has increased by 2.2 percentage points, to an average of 10.3 percent in 2012 from 8.1 percent in 2011.”
This would seem to indicate that very soon, websites like Change.org may once again go to work encouraging people to boycott the mega banks and take their money to the small community banks and credit unions. [source: Forbes]
What do you think?
If Bank of America and others institute a new round of fees, will you take your money to a community bank or is it reasonable to ask customers to pay the fees if they can’t satisfy the terms that would allow them to avoid the new costs?
Is it reasonable for banks charge fees for products that essentially lose them money? Or should they step aside and let smaller banks take up personal savings and checking accounts?
Has basic banking become a service we have taken for granted? Or do you think savings/checking customers are taking the brunt of poor bank decisions as well as being the scapegoat for legislation limiting what banks can charge?
Let us know below.