Chase forgoes debit card fee

The new Chase Bank credit card with 'blink' technology is displayed during a press conference at an Arby's restaurant June 8, 2005 in Denver, Colo.

Kai Ryssdal: Last month when Bank of America announced that $5 debit card fee, a whole lot of people were really, really peeved. Banks, though, they're kind of used to ignoring outrage and doing what they want.

But this time, it seemed to actually work. Not with B of A -- so far at least. But some big rivals are now saying they're not going to charge that fee. A win for consumers, right? Not quite.

Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore has the story.


Heidi Moore: Louie Cassalls is a New Yorker who banks with Chase. When the news came out today that Chase won't charge a $5 debit card fee, he was pretty pleased. This is a victory for the little guy, right?

Louie Cassalls: I think it's nice that Chase don't charge you the fee on the debit card, because there's enough bills out there.

But Louie probably isn't getting off scot-free. Sure, he and other Chase customers don't pay a debit card fee, but the small print shows they pay $12-a-month charge if they don't keep a minimum balance of $1,500. Bart Narter is an analyst with Celent.

Bart Narter: They're going to have to put the fees on something else. They have to.

Citibank, for instance, skipped the debit fee but at the same time said it would hike the monthly maintenance charges on checking accounts.

Narter: They're doing this to make checking a viable business, because banks are losing money on at least half of all accounts.

But Norma Garcia, a senior attorney with the Consumers Union, still calls it a win. She says the move:

Norma Garcia: Really speaks volumes to the power of consumers lending their voice to shutting down what they think an unjust fee.

Garcia says consumers will have to remain vigilant as banks slip in more fees.

In New York, I'm Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

About the author

Heidi N. Moore is The Guardian's U.S. finance and economics editor. She was formerly the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace.

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