Lower Income Families Willing to Pay More Bank Fees, Survey Says

A new poll by the Research Intelligence Group found that lower income families are one-and-a-half times more likely to pay new banking fees than richer Americans.

Low-to-middle income households- those making between $35,000 to $49,000- are purported to shell out money for additional fees 22 percent of the time, while households earning over $100,000 would pay only 14 percent of the time.

The survey of 1,000 adults also discovered that 30 percent of the United States populace would leave their banks over new debit card fees, while 43 percent said they'd try to avoid the new fee by using credit cards or cash in its place.

Robert Kaplan-Sherman, president of the services division of the Research Intelligence Group, acknowledges that, "There's a lot of consumer discontent within financial services and I think there's a lot of frustration," but that the consumer mindset also plays a part in the decision-making process.

"Less-affluent populations," Kaplan-Sherman said, "often feel like they have fewer options at their disposal."

They may be right.

Javelin Strategy & Research- a company with "100+ years of collective industry experience," according to their website- made public a study on the success of opening consumer checking accounts online. They found that 47 percent of Americans couldn't fund an account, filed applications that were rejected, or eventually gave up on an account altogether.

The two studies could be a response to the $3 monthly debit card charges JPMorgan Chase & Co. implemented in two states, as well as Bank of America's plan to apply $5 monthly charges to certain customers starting 2012.

The new fees come just as Bank of America fell from grace. JP Morgan Chase & Co. recently overthrew BofA as America's biggest bank, exceeding $2.2 trillion in assets.

A conference call yesterday with Brian T. Moynihan, chief executive officer of Bank of America, revealed that current customers could avoid the controversial fee by taking out a BofA mortgage or depositing at least $20,000 with the bank or its Merrill Lynch & Co. brokerage.

"The fees are to get people bring more relationships," claimed Moynihan. "We're comfortable that we'll end up in a good dynamic there."

Two representatives don't think so.

Florida state representative Jeff Clemens proposed new legislation blocking banks from adding debit card fees this week. Earlier this month, Brad Miller, a Democratic rep from North Carolina, presented a bill preventing banks from charging fees to close accounts.

According to Sherman-Kaplan, whose Research Intelligence Group also specializes in marketing, "There's such a heightened level of awareness of fees right now... But generally speaking, consumer awareness of fees is very, very low."

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