Bank of America, Adam Smith and a Fee Market System


Naturally, there's a lot not to like about all of the new fees—B of A's in particular, perhaps because the fee has certain sneaky features that evoke memories of so many other fees charged by banks and credit card companies. For example, if you don't ever make a purchase in October using your debit card there's no fee. But if you get cold chasing your kid around at 10 PM on Halloween, that three dollar latte will cost you eight. Okay, okay—but, at least everyone will know the deal.

Whatever else is true about this new fee, it's certainly not "hidden." However, it's manifestly unfair in the sense that it will affect those with better cash flow far less than those without. Indeed, the people who will be least likely to avoid the monthly fee are those with the fewest alternatives. This fee will be a lot harder to sidestep if you have a low limit credit card versus a high limit credit card, or have no credit card because you have lousy credit (because, perhaps, you lost your job due to the Great Recession).

But those are objections that consumers should make, not governments.

According to a recent survey, in 2011 for the first time in history credit card issuers earned more from fees than they did from interest on outstanding balances. This trend is likely to continue, and you should expect fees of every description to be increased, not to mention all of the new fees that can be conjured up going forward. I don't like it anymore than you do, but I'd like to fight it with informed consumers seeking out clever and more efficient competitors, rather than by government price-fixing.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Adam Levin is Chairman and cofounder of and Identity Theft 911. His experience as former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs gives him unique insight into consumer privacy, legislation and financial advocacy. He is a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and credit.

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