Bank of America Making Millions in Fees From Unemployed Workers?

Americans Already Feeling the Pinch Say Such Charges Are Unnecessary

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By Brendan Giusti, Christian Post Reporter
November 18, 2011|3:22 pm

Bank of America has made millions of dollars from ATM charges from people withdrawing unemployment benefits, according to reports.

The massive profits stem from fees associated with withdrawals made from Bank of America accounts on another institution's ATMs.

But many of the nation's unemployed do not get to choose which bank to deposit their weekly benefits into.

More than half the states in the U.S. have deals with major banking institutions, including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and U.S. Bank, to issue unemployment funds to debit cards.

The fine print for the mandatory program includes hidden fees, which chip away at the already small amount of money the unemployed receive each week.

"They're trying to use my money to make money," Arthur Santa-Maria, an unemployed engineer from Albuquerque, N.M., told The Associated Press. "I just see banks trying to make that 50 cents or a buck and a half when I should be given the service for free."

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Santa-Maria, along with the many other unemployed workers who use Bank of America, was reportedly charged fees for calling customer service, making more than a certain number of withdrawals per month and overdrawing the account.

But the fees do not stop there.

The bank also receive a percentage of each purchase made with the debit cards, which is paid by the retailers. Some banks also make interest on the money placed into the accounts.

And it is all being done as the nation's unemployment rate hovers near 10 percent.

In October, Bank of America scrapped plans to charge a $5-per-month fee to debit card users after intense backlash from customers.

But the other fees remain. And it is big business.

A report by the National Consumer Law Center estimates the average unemployment check to be $294 per month. Fees of up to $20 or more can greatly drain funds from families in need.

"These junk fees stack the deck against unemployed Americans," said Lauren Saunders, author of the report. "Unemployed workers need every dollar and they don’t need bank tricks."

The fees, some as little as 50 cents, add up quickly in a rocky economy.

States paid $133 billion in unemployment benefits in 2010, according to the Mercator Advisory Group. That figure is up from $55 billion in 2005.

While the majority of fees are small, overdraft fees can be devastating to families on such a small fixed income.

"We think overdraft fees are totally inexcusable in general, and especially when they’re charged against unemployed workers," Saunders said.

 

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