Bank of America is looking for a new way to institute fees on new customers' checking accounts, despite their failure to introduce new fees last year. Customers are outraged at the prospect of more charges on their accounts.
The new monthly fee would affect customers by charging them $9, $12, $15, or $25, and the charges are already being tested in areas like Georgia and Massachusetts. A monthly charge of $6 to $9 would come for an "Essentials" account, according to the Wall Street Journal.
People don't like it.
"No one wants to be the guinea pig," Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin told The Boston Herald Thursday. "Obviously, it suggests [banks] have a cavalier attitude towards our consumers."
Even though Bank of America said it is "not planning to increase checking account fees with our existing customers," its attempt to "[continue] to learn" by testing the process is unaffordable for some, according to The Associated Press.
"A significant part of the population will be squeezed out of banks because they can't afford it," said Nancy Bush, creator of banking research group NAB. She thinks it's "absolutely wrong."
For small business owners supporting the community through their efforts, the new fees add up, and could mean the difference between banking with BoA and banking somewhere else entirely.
"It's obvious they don't care about the small-business person," Louise Cote, owner of Katmandu Studio graphic design company, told The Herald. "Some customers are going to say, 'Hey, it's only $16 a month,' but that's $192 a year - and in this economy, that means a lot."
Bank of America's testing of new fees comes with caveats, however: customers who do enough banking with them manage to avoid the fees. By banking online, buying moiré financial products, or maintaining minimum balances, some customers may pay no more than they already do.
The situation is similar to last fall, when Bank of America announced $5 debit card fees on Sept. 29, 2011. Then, customers outrage prompted BoA to abandon their plans, and many banks who had new fees in the works backed off.
Banks are consistently seeking new sources of revenue since the financial crash of 2008. In 2009, almost all of the major banks offered free checking, and now, nearly none of them do.
Will Bank of America listen to customers' indignation again? It remains to be seen, but a grassroots movement succeeded last time.
"We thought there had been a victory last time and they were listening," Molly Katchpole, a 22-year-old Rhode Islander, told The Herald. Her online petition sunk BoA's new fees last year.
"I guess not," she said.