March 10, 2010

Who’s my hero this morning? Bank of America. I should leave my bank!

An end to the $40 cup of coffee.

I’ve been a good customer of my current biz bank for years. 7.5 years, to be exact. In that time, the account’s gone to zero twice. Call it cash flow problems, or call it my bad—in both incidences elephant was charged more than $400 in overdraft fees. Both times I tried to fill out overdraft protection (and we’ve tried other times) and both times the process dragged out and then, no surprise (being at zero), elephant was declined.

Every charge—say our $5 a month auto payment to what-have-you—resulted in a new $35 charge. Nearly in tears, frustrated, I’d plead with them: “I’ve been a good customer, this is when I need you to back me up!” They calmly asked if I’d like to transfer my personal account over, too (no kidding) and said I could talk with a manager. The manager shrugged and said, “sorry.” I said, “well, as soon as we’re able, we’ll leave.” He shrugged again. Almost as bad as dealing with Verizon, or AT&T.

In Washington DC, pressure has been building to stop these overdraft charges, which banks love. They get much of their revenue from it. But this morning Bank of America beat our politicians to the door of fairness and reform:


“What our customers kept telling me is ‘just don’t let me spend money that I don’t have,’ ” said Susan Faulkner, the bank’s deposit and card product executive, who said the overdraft changes were part of a broader push to build trust among its customers. “We wanted to help them avoid those unexpected overdraft fees.”

Last year alone, banks generated about $20 billion from overdraft fees on debit purchases and A.T.M. transactions, and $12 billion more by covering checks and recurring bills, according to Moebs Services, an economic research firm.

But as reports surfaced of customers incurring hundreds, even thousands, in overdraft fees, often for purchases of just a few dollars like a cup of coffee, regulators and lawmakers stepped in. As of July 1, the Federal Reserve will require that banks obtain a customer’s consent before they can charge them overdraft fees for A.T.M. transactions and debit purchases; many banks now automatically enroll customers.

In anticipation of the new Fed rule, some banks have begun marketing campaigns to encourage their customers to opt in to overdraft protection to keep the dollars flowing.

Read the whole bit, here. Good on ya, Bank of America!

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