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In Banks' Profit Push, 'Era of Low Fees is Over'

From: "In Banks' Profit Push, 'Era of Low Fees Is Over'", Marshall Eckblad, The Wall Street Journal Online, 7/31/09

Despite public anger and political pressure, U.S. banks have been busy raising a variety of fees charged to customers.

"All depositories are trying to raise any little fee, whether on loans, deposits or transaction accounts," said Mike Moebs, founder of Moebs Services Inc., which collects data on fees from nearly every U.S. bank and credit union. "The era of low fees is over."

The upward trend reflects pressure on bank executives nationwide to turn in profits -- or at least minimize losses -- as loans to homeowners and businesses turn sour.

Fee Adjustments
Examples of recent fee decisions:

  • Bank of America raised monthly service fees on MyAccess checking accounts to $8.95 from $5.95. It also reversed a decision to boost overdraft fees.
  • EverBank raised a monthly fee on Yield Pledge Money Market accounts to $8.95 from $4.95 for accounts below minimum balance. It upped minimum balance levels to $5,000 from $1,500.
  • Amboy Bancorp enacted a $5 monthly charge for Direct savings accounts less than $100 and more than a year old.

Bank of America Corp., which got more than $45 billion in taxpayer-funded support from the Treasury Department, boosted the monthly maintenance fee for its MyAccess checking account to $8.95 from $5.95. The bank also has raised its fee for credit-card balance transfers from 3% to 4%.

Meanwhile, the Charlotte, N.C., bank reversed a previous decision to raise its $35 overdraft fee to $39. Overdraft fees, which are charged to customers who run negative balance, drove more than $30 billion in revenue to banks last year alone.

"Given the economic climate and particularly the recent dramatic increase in the unemployment rate, we decided to suspend that fee increase," said BofA spokeswoman Anne Pace. The bank also has lowered its overdraft fee for negative balances under $5, and offers to refund some charges for customers who have lost a job recently.

BofA's revenue from service charges was $2.7 billion in the second quarter, up 7.7% from the first quarter. The company holds 12.2% of all U.S. deposits, according to SNL Financial, followed by Wells Fargo & Co. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan, of New York, have passed along higher costs for deposit insurance charged by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to some business customers. Wells Fargo, which accepted $25 billion in government funds, said the affected customers account for a small portion of its deposit base. Thomas Kelly, a J.P. Morgan spokesman, said, "We decided to pass along the longer-term FDIC insurance increase to some business banking accounts."

Written By: vhorizon
Date Posted: 8/6/2009
Number of Views: 3608