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Bank Of America To Charge Debit Card Fee

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MIAMI (CBS4) – MIAMI (CBS4) – South Florida residents and visitors who use Bank of America will have to pay a bit more next year to use their debit cards to pay for purchases.

Beginning early next they’ll be charged an extra $5 a month in a debit card fee.

“Five dollars? Well I was already looking for another bank,” said Daniel Cespedes, a Bank of America customer in Doral.

Anne Pace, a Bank of America Corp. spokeswoman, said Thursday that customers will only be charged the fee if they use their debit cards for purchases in any given month. Customers won’t be charged if they only use their cards at an ATM.

The fee will apply to basic accounts and will be in addition to any monthly fees customers are already being charged. For example, one of the bank’s basic accounts already charges a $12 monthly fee unless customers meet certain conditions, such as maintaining a minimum average balance of $1,500.

A fee for using debit cards is still a novel concept for many consumers and was unheard of before this year. But there are signs it will soon become an industry norm.

SunTrust, a regional bank based in Atlanta, began charging a $5 debit card fee on its basic checking accounts this summer. Regions Financial, which is based in Birmingham, Ala., notified customers this summer that it will charge a $4 monthly fee starting next month.

Chase and Wells Fargo are also testing $3 monthly debit card fees in select markets. Neither bank has said when it will make a final decision on whether to roll out the fee more broadly.

The debit card fee isn’t the only unwelcome change for checking account customers are seeing either. The banking industry has been raising fees and scaling back on rewards programs as they adjust to new regulations that will limit traditional revenue sources.

Starting Oct. 1, a regulation will cap the fees that banks can collect from merchants whenever customers swipe their debit cards. Those fees had generated $19 billion in revenue for banks in 2009, according to the Nilson Report, which tracks the payments industry.

There is no similar cap for the fees that banks can collect from merchants when customers use their credit cards, however. That means banks may increasingly encourage customers to reach for their credit cards, reversing a trend toward debit card usage in the past several years.

Pace said the new debit card fee will be rolled out in stages starting with select states in early 2012. She did not say which states would be affected first.

Bank of America shares rose 9 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $6.25 in afternoon trading.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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