Oct 7, 2011 5:54 PM by Andy Koen

Debit card discontent

Beginning in 2012, Bank of America customers who use their debit cards for purchases will have to pay an extra $5 monthly fee. Wells Fargo and Chase are testing a similar $3 fee.

Katie Carrol of the Colorado Springs Better Business Bureau encourages customers who are unhappy with the fees to consider their options.

"I would say, as a consumer, take back your power," Carrol advises. "Don't use your debit card, go once a month to your bank and make a withdrawal, or go to your bank and say hey, I don't want to pay these fees, isn't there some way around it."

Bank of America spokesperson Betty Riess said in an email to News 5 that customers who wish to avoid the fee still access their checking accounts from ATM's, use online bill pay and P2P mobile phone transfers. She added that for certain premium account holders the debit fee will be waived.

"When customers have questions, we are making sure they understand he value and convenience of debit cards and choices they have to avoid the fee," Riess said.

Smaller community banks and credit unions, like Air Academy Federal Credit Union, are expecting to see their customer base grow as unhappy big bank customers leave.

Chief Financial Officer Brad Barnes says AAFCO experienced a similar surge during the bank bailouts of 2008.

"It wouldn't be surprising to see the same thing this time around," Barnes said.

However, Barnes he doesn't revel in his competitors misery. He says banking limits imposed by Congress that spurred all these fees could just as quickly be changed to include smaller banks.

"It's an opportunity on one hand but maybe writing on the wall on the other hand."

The Colorado Department of Labor also announced Friday that it has negotiated a new deal with J.P. Morgan Chase to keep the unemployed in our state from having to pay debit card fees on their state issued accounts.

Colorado contracts with the bank to use debit cards as a means to distribute unemployment benefits.

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