Maria Aspan, consumer finance editor with the newspaper American Banker, said the banks are acting in response to the Durbin Amendment, which limits the fees banks can collect from merchants for debit card purchases to 21 cents from an average of 44 cents. The Durbin Amendment has a higher cap for a merchant's transaction fee for extra services, such as fraud settlement, which is 24 cents.
Banks are also charging higher fees because of changing rules that force them to ask customers to opt in if they want overdraft protection, another previous revenue generator.
Aspan acknowledged that "$3 to $5 is a far cry from 24 cents, or even 44 cents." Customers who use their debit card for purchases 15 times a month at a rate of 21 cents in transaction fees could recoup $3.15 of the revenue a bank would have received from merchants.
A banking survey from the Federal Reserve from June found that the average, or mean, per respondent of total processing costs for all types of debit card transactions, including those on prepaid cards, was 17 cents. That 17 cents does not include fraud settlement or other services.
Apsan also said banks may be indirectly encouraging customers to not use their debit card and instead use their credit cards, which charge merchants a higher, unregulated interchange fee.
Customers have expressed frustration over the company's website problems as well.
Holly Ryan, a food purchasing service director in Massachusetts, said Bank of America's website problems delayed her mortgage payment, which was due Saturday, by four days. Ryan is not a Bank of America customer, but the bank bought her mortgage from her previous mortgage broker.
"I usually pay it the last day of month or day it's due," Ryan said. "That's why I was upset because I've always been on time."
Lynn Roberts, a Bank of America customer and owner of Globotext, a business based in southern Florida that translates news and business documents, said she was late in paying her employees, as first reported by the Charlotte Observer, because of the site's loading problems
Globotext has about 90 people employed worldwide, and Roberts said she had difficulty transferring payments to them because of the website's delays, which made her "furious."
While Roberts had not heard of the petition, she is considering whether she should take her business elsewhere.
"We work on a lot of deadlines, and we expect we should meet our deadlines as well. That was quite alarming to us," she said.