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article imageBank of America cooks up new monthly fees

By Leigh Goessl     Mar 2, 2012 in Business
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
That seems to be the Bank of America's new approach when it comes to cooking up ways to tack on fees for its customers.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Bank of America Corp. is looking to implement new fees associated with the bank's checking accounts, unless customers meet certain specifications.
WSJ reports the Bank of America is piloting new fee structures with customers in the states of Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts. One program being experimented with is charging BofA customers $6 to $9 a month to have an "Essentials" account.
Other potential fees customers are being tested with are monthly charges of $9, $12, $15 and $25. Customers can reportedly avoid these fees if they pass on using bank teller counter service, or do additional business with the bank. For instance, if the customers use a BofA credit card, take out a mortgage or maintain designated minimum balances in their accounts, they may be able to avoid the fee.
WSJ reported, "In addition, some Bank of America branch employees in the Northeast have already been trained to handle the first phase of a U.S. rollout, one branch manager said."
Bank of America already charges monthly fees for checking accounts, unless customers qualify to avoid fees, but if this change is implemented, it might mean higher fees or different triggers to add on monthly fees.
Many other banks have explored the idea of adding on fees in order to increase revenues.
Business Week talked to consumer advocates and questioned "how would they set what banks charge consumers for services?"
“Hidden fees are one of the worst problems,” says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “If we have clear fees, then we have the ability to comparison shop.”
While hidden fees are an issue, based on consumer response to BofA's previous attempts to raise fees, transparency may not be enough for consumers to accept the new fees if rolled out.
These new fees come on the heels of a failed effort last fall when Bank of America tried to impose a new $5 a month debit-card fee when purchases are made, which was balked at by customers. BofA eventually scrapped the new fee after much negative backlash. This fee was created after the highly publicized Durbin Amendment went into effect on Oct. 1, 2011.
At this time no nationwide rollout of the new fee structure has been designated by the Bank of America, however media reports say the attempts to tack on bank fees has gained "urgency" in recent months. Bank of America has reportedly given no official comment in relation to these additional checking account fees.
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