Last year, there was an uproar when Bank of America announced a plan to slap customers with a monthly $5 fee for debit card usage. The bank eventually backed off that plan when the public and some politicians cried foul.
Now it seems the company is going to try to put a new package on the same crappy idea and sell it again. This time, the plan is to add charges that range from $6 to $25 a month. From an MSNBC report:
Pilot programs in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts are experimenting with charging $6 to $9 a month for what’s called an “Essentials” account. Other account options being tested in those states carry monthly charges of $9, $12, $15 and $25, but give customers opportunities to avoid the payments by maintaining minimum balances, using a credit card or taking a mortgage with Bank of America, according to an internal memo cited by the [Wall Street] Journal.
It’s a very bad sign that a bank is in a desperate cash crunch when it tries repeatedly to gouge its customers. David Trainer, an analyst for Market Watch, a WSJ publication, wrote that the new fees are a sign of series trouble at BAC. He writes:
In my opinion, there are four actions taken by financial services that signal the company is headed to serious trouble.
1. Management shake-up and major layoffs – lots of layoffs over the past year
2. Exploiting accounting rules to boost earnings – SFAS 159
3. Drawing down reserves to boost earnings: to the tune of $13.3 billion in 2011 and 2012
4. Bilking customers with new fees: tried it before and trying it again
Bank of America has taken all four steps. Bilking customers with new fees is a desperate measure of last resort because it requires exploiting the one asset the bank has left, namely its customers.