It’s getting harder and harder to avoid paying for one of the most basic and necessary banking services: a checking account. And that could make it even harder for low-income customers to access the services of mainstream banks.
Just this week, Bank of America finished converting an unspecified number of customers still using its eBanking checking account to a different kind of checking account that will charge a monthly fee of $12. While the original eBanking account wasn’t technically free, its monthly $8.95 fee could be circumvented if account holders didn’t go to a teller (which fewer and fewer Americans do) and agreed to get their statements online instead of in the mail. The fees for the new account won’t be as easy to get around. In order to have the $12 monthly fee waived, customers will need to keep their balance above $1,500, or have direct deposits of $250 or more per month.
In comparison to most other major banks, those terms aren’t out of the ordinary, and those fees are comparatively low, Betty Riess, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, said in an email. That’s true. In recent years, plenty of other major banks including Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank have moved away from no-fee or effectively free checking accounts in recent years. “Checking accounts oftentimes are free if certain conditions are met—of course, those conditions can be tough for people to meet,” says Thaddeus King, who works on consumer-finance issues at the Pew Charitable Trusts.