Heather Kellar declared victory Tuesday at the news that Bank of America has joined other major banks in nixing monthly debit card fees they’d planned to charge customers.
Kellar, a North Augusta resident, recently switched from Wells Fargo to First Citizens Bank to avoid paying a $3 monthly debit card fee, joining thousands of others who made similar moves.
“It just shows that it’s worth us speaking out. I feel like I was a part of something bigger,” Kellar said. “If you accept the $3 or $5, then they’ll throw something else at you six months from now. Once they cross that one line, they cross another one and before you know it, you’re up to 20 bucks a month and you’re like, ‘How did this happen?’”
On Tuesday, Bank of America announced that it wasn’t moving forward with plans to charge a $5 monthly debit fee. Bank officials said the decision was based on customer feedback. Last week, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase & Co. canceled tests for debit card fees, and SunTrust and Regions were close behind cancelling debit fees on Monday.
The decision by the big banks comes just in time, Kellar said. She said that 60,000 people nationwide had joined a Facebook movement to switch banks this Saturday, which was being deemed Bank Transfer Day.
Locally, customers have been responding to the new fees announced by the major banks by switching to community banks and credit unions with free checking options. These local institutions have been reaping the benefits.
Georgia Bank & Trust, which offered a free checking account to attract new customers, has gotten a significant number of new checking accounts. First Bank of Georgia, Savannah River Banking Co., F&M Bank and several credit unions, also offering free checking accounts, have seen an increase in traffic, according to local banking officials.
“I think the consumers definitely had a voice,” said Dan Blanton, the CEO of Georgia Bank & Trust. “The regionals heard the voice of their consumers. I think customers felt like they were being nickeled and dimed with various fees for everything, and they just expressed the outrage over this issue.”
However, Blanton doesn’t think the decision of the big banks will halt the growth at Georgia Bank & Trust. On Tuesday, the staff at the downtown Augusta branch was still busy processing new accounts, he said.
“I think that maybe it upset people enough. It’s hard to change a bank account. You just have to really get mad to want to change it, and I think maybe that’s what’s happened,” he said.
Karyn Warren, of Evans, recently switched from Wells Fargo to USAA, which is available to military personnel, she said. Her main reason for the switch was Wells Fargo’s new debit card fee. She also thinks consumers played a role in the big banks’ decision.
“I would think that was because so many people closed their accounts or canceled their cards. They were going to lose a ton of business,” Warren said. “I really think it’s one example of showing how when a large group of people get together with one voice, then they actually can accomplish something.”