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A banking customer uses an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank branch on July 19, 2011 in Oakland, Calif.

Kai Ryssdal: Transunion said this week the credit card delinquency rate in this country hit a 17-year low. Mainly 'cause people are just using their credit cards less and their debit cards more.

Which brings us to today's news. Wells Fargo's going to start testing a $3 monthly fee for people who want to use their debit cards. Marketplace's Jennifer Collins explains on how using their own money is getting more and more costly for consumers.


Jennifer Collins: These days, it seems like we go on a spending spree just to use our money: ATM fees. Fees for having too small a balance. Fees for checks.

Jason Korstange: You've seen the virtual elimination of free checking.

That's Jason Korstange. He works for TCF Bank. Korstange says in October, federal regulations will limit the amount merchants pay to take debit cards.

Korstange: So, you know, that difference is going to have to be made up.

That same month, Wells Fargo will charge debit card users a monthly fee in five states. J.P. Morgan Chase, Regions Financial and SunTrust are considering similar moves. Banks introduced debit cards as an alternative to labor intensive check processing.

Robert Manning: Debit cards became the choice of banks because it was such an enormous cost savings.

Robert Manning is the author of Credit Card Nation. He says banks passed those savings on to consumers.

Manning: Charging people for debit cards when you're basically spending your own money is basically inflating the cost of all the high-technology efficiencies that have been invested.

Ali Raza is with Speer and Associates. He says if he were a Wells Fargo customer, this is what he'd do:

Ali Raza: I limit my debit card usage at the point of sale and I start paying with a credit card.

And those new limits on swipe fees don't apply to credit cards.

Raza: If I'm a large credit card issuer, why not 'incent' my customers to use a credit card instead of a debit card?

Which Raza said could end up inflating consumer debt.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.


To learn more about the history of the debit card -- and debit card fees -- check out the Reporter's Notebook blog.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.

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