BofA: ‘Positive’ Response on Checking Fees

Mar 1, 2012 12:29pm
ap bank fees nt 111101 wblog BofA: Positive Response on Checking Fees

(Credit: Mark Lennihan/AP Photo)

Bank of America said it has not yet made a decision about implementing fees it has been testing in three states after the Wall Street Journal reported the company is weighing monthly fees for checking accounts unless customers agree to bank online, buy more products or maintain certain balances.

The second-largest U.S. bank by assets announced in early January that it was testing fees in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts, which represent about 10 percent of Bank of America’s consumer business, Allen Jones, the bank’s mass market segment executive told the Associated Press that month.

The bank’s four test services were offered for new accounts in the three  states by the end of January, the AP reported.

Bank of America and other banks have tried to increase revenue amid low interest rates and teetering profitability. This week, JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank by assets, said 70 percent of customers with less than $100,000 with the bank will be unprofitable after regulations capping lenders’ fees, Bloomberg News reported.

Bank of America’s most basic tested account,  Essentials, offers a single checking account with a debit card for a monthly fee. Currently, the bank’s basic checking account has an $8.95 fee that is waived if the customer uses direct deposits or has a $1,500 balance.

Its new eBanking account has a single checking account with a debit card, but allows customers to skip the monthly fee by avoiding tellers and receiving e-mailed statements, the AP reported. The other tested accounts include the Enhanced and Premium accounts.

Currently, the bank’s accounts include eBanking, MyAccess, Advantage with Tiered Interest, and Small Business Checking Bundle.

Anne Pace, spokeswoman for Bank of America, told ABC News the bank has been testing new solutions, including Essentials, for over a year. She said “our primary objective is to give our customer more reasons to do more business with us. Whatever we decide will be done with that core principle in our mind.”

“We have made no decisions on the construct of new product offerings as the tests are still ongoing,” she wrote in an email. “When we do finalize our plans, we will communicate with our customers and be in line with the industry. As we do now, any future offering will give customers different wants to avoid the fees.”

Pace said the proposed $5 debit card fee that was canceled in November before it was implemented after customer criticism is not included in the current tests.

Pace said the results of the tests have “so far” been “positive.

“Customers see the value and associated feedback has been very positive,” she said. “So far, the solutions are working the way they were designed – more customers are taking advantage of the full breadth of products and services the bank offers to give them the financial control they seek. Throughout the process, we have looked not just at what customers say they want from their bank, but at the way they actually bank and what that tells us about their needs.”

Pace said when the bank first rolled the test offerings to the three states, the intent was for the new banking solutions to be primarily for new customers.

“But our existing customers are finding the solutions valuable, so they were asking us to switch their accounts to the new solutions,” she said.

She said customers are also conducting their banking in ways that are consistent with the design of the products, such as making deposits through ATMs through its eBanking account or signing up for credit card with its Enhanced account.

This story was corrected from a previous version that included information from the AP on existing accounts in Georgia, Massachusetts and Arizona being converted that Bank of America said was incorrect.

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