Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bailed out banks, including BofA, raising rates

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 11:59 AM

Good, ol' bankers. They're going to take money out of your pocket, one way or another. Aren't they? As if billions of taxpayer dollars aren't enough, they're boosting their bottom line with fee increases.

Forget the rising unemployment rate. Forget the hard-working people working for less. No, they don't count nearly as much as the expectations of our bank's shareholders. They are more than happy to snatch a few extra dollars from your account if it means their investments are safe.

That's probably why more and more people are living cash-only lives. And -- shocking as it may seem -- they're still alive!

Your bank wants more of your money, and it's found a way to get it: by jacking up the fees on your account.

Customers are paying more to maintain a checking account and withdraw cash from an out-of-system ATM, and when they bounce a check. To make up for declining revenue, many banks are boosting fees and are requiring higher minimum balances for many accounts.

The institutions also have made it easier for customers to spend more than is in their accounts -- and then hit them with substantial fees, a practice so vexing to consumer advocates that the Federal Reserve is thinking of regulating it.

Bank revenue has plummeted on the back of foreclosures and rising credit card delinquencies. Now Congress has passed a law cracking down on arbitrary and excessive credit card fees. So the banks have been fighting back.

"There is an economic storm that has made revenue fall," said Michael Moebs, an economist and chief executive of Moebs Services, an economic research firm in Lake Bluff, Ill. "Fee income is basically where banks and credit unions can offset both loan- and investment-related losses."

Bank of America this year raised the maximum number of times customers can get hit with overdraft fees from five a day to 10. On top of that, it began charging a one-time fee of $35 if the account remains in the negative for more than five days. The bank also raised the monthly fee on My Access checking accounts to $8.95 from $5.95. Citigroup's Citibank last year increased its overdraft fee to $34 from $30 and its ATM fees for non-Citibank customers to $3 from $2. Wells Fargo also last year increased its maximum overdraft and insufficient funds fee to $35 from $34.

More from The Washington Post.

More about living a cash-only lifestyle:

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