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Get ready for more debit card fees

Marketplace Staff Aug 18, 2011

Get ready for more debit card fees

Marketplace Staff Aug 18, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: ATM fees are nothing new, right? But your bank may start charging you just for the privilege of using that debit card anywhere. There’s news this morning that one bank is testing a monthly debit card fee of 3 bucks in some markets.

Marketplace senior business correspondent Bob Moon is with us live here in our Los Angeles studio with the latest on that. Morning, Bob.

Bob Moon: Hey, Steve.

Chiotakis: So who’s doing this, and why?

Moon: Well now Wells Fargo is going to try this out in a handful of states — Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada, and Georgia. It’s joining Chase, which is also running a $3 a month pilot in Wisconsin. And at least a couple of other regional banks have imposed $4 or $5 dollar fees. I talked this morning to banking industry analyst Bert Ely. He explains they’re doing this after the new regulation that reduced how much banks can charge merchants for each debit card transaction.

Bert Ely: Banks are trying to make it up some place else. They need to generate “x” amount of revenue in order to cover the expenses of providing services to customers.

So it seems consumers still get stuck with the bill. Wells Fargo says it’s going to closely monitor how the guinea pigs in these fives states respond to this new fee before deciding whether to go ahead and roll it out nationwide.

Chiotakis: What if I don’t want to pay this, Bob? How do I avoid it?

Moon: Well, Wells Fargo wants to make it 3 bucks a month, so pony up right now. It only applies if you use your debit card to make purchases, it won’t cost you if you just use the card at ATMs, or if you sign up for certain checking accounts. And Bert Ely told me he thinks those kind of exceptions will be the rule.

Ely: What we may find is that the banks will basically say: They’ll be no charge if you utilize certain other services of the bank, such as direct deposit, maybe you have a credit card, a safety deposit box, things like that.

Chiotakis: Isn’t this going to make people use debit cards less, Bob?

Moon: Well, Ely told me it’s too early to say. There will probably be some backlash, but it can cost a lot to use that other kind of plastic too, and — credit card interest charges — it may be time to break out the old checkbook.

Chiotakis: Oh boy! Marketplace’s Bob Moon here in the studio. Bob, thanks.

Moon: Thanks.

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