Monday, October 03, 2011

921 Held For Ransom

921  Held for Ransom

Congratulations to Bank of America, pioneer and champion of the customer.  Five bucks a month to use your own money from your own checking account when you use your debit card?  

Outrageous doesn’t begin to cover it.

It’s your money.  It’s your checking account.  The money sits in their Scrooge McDuck wall safe until you use it.  But it’s still yours.  And now, they’re holding it for ransom.  The ransom is $60 a year except if you have one of their fancy upscale checking accounts that requires an average daily balance within walking distance of the gross domestic product of Lithuania.

Why did they start charging?  Well, because the Dodd Frank Consumer Protection law caps the fees they can charge merchants.  Some protection!  Actually, the banks are performing a service for the merchants and should get a reasonable fee.  It’s just that they lost their sense of scale and Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank figured out a way to put their fingers in that dyke.  At least that’s what we all thought.

But never underestimate the creativity of an American banker!  Especially when there’s a few billion in revenue at stake.  And never underestimate the power of legislation to have an effect opposite of its stated intent.

Other banks have been testing out pilot programs like this in small areas.  But BOA is the first to pull the trigger nationally.  Chase, in answer to an e-mail, says they have no plans to spring this on their checking customers.  Yet. (Uh, oh! Actual reporting for this posting.   Setting a bad precedent.)

A couple of smaller banks have a circumspect answer to the question “When will you start doing this?”  Once branch manager said “they haven’t told us they’re going to do anything like this.”  That’s not nearly close enough to the right answer which is “we wouldn’t dream of imposing fees on you for using your own money, especially since we pay pennies a year in interest while holding it.”

Bank of America is bound to see a downturn in customer count to match their upturn in fees, although many in that herd will likely get used to it.  After all, it’s only five bucks a month and it’s a pain to move our accounts.

So many will meet the ransom demand when they should be calling the cops or the FBI about their abducted money.


--Have earplugs, will travel.  The noise (some call it “music”) that comes over public address systems in many public places is getting much harder to handle these days -- whining, shrieking... an open aural cesspool.  Earplugs can help.

--Andy Rooney has commentated his last for CBS’ “Sixty Minutes.”  Too bad... it was one of their best features, though the final appearance wasn’t his best work.  And at a mere 92, he isn’t that old by that program’s standards.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

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