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Big bank fees back in the news
WASHINGTON (3/2/12)--Big banks' growing fees is a topic that is back in the news this week, with The Wall Street Journal zeroing in on a Bank of America (BofA) plan to add a new string of fees and The Huffington Post highlighting recent fee-celebrating comments by a JP Morgan Chase official.

In its March 1 issue, the Journal reported that BofA is considering new monthly fees that range from $6 to $25. The article said the new line of fees would be targeted primarily to basic-checking accountholders, unless they agree to "bank online, buy more products or maintain certain balances."

Reporters Dan Fitzpatrick and David Enrich wrote, "Those efforts are tricky, because they risk upsetting the banks' best customers or drawing fire from politicians. Bank of America retreated last fall from a new $5 debit-card charge following a customer revolt and a wave of criticism."

It was that $5 debit-card fee that many see as the spark that ignited the grassroots Bank Transfer Day (BTD) movement, where a social media post by Kristen Christian transmogrified into a mass movement of consumers away from big banks and toward smaller financial institutions, like credit unions and community banks.

Also in the news, The Huffington Post, picking up a New York Times live blog post from the bank's investor day conference, reported that the head of JP Morgan Chase's consumer banking division, Todd Maclin, said he would "celebrate" if the bank could charge even higher fees.

According to the Thursday article, JP Morgan is itching for a time when consumers begin to view maintenance fees for checking the way they see items on their monthly household budgets--like gym memberships.

The Post went on to say that while the banking industry defends its fees by saying it costs a lot to maintain and service checking accounts, it highlights the fact that small institutions, like credit unions, "are doing just fine with middle-class customers who have less than one hundred grand in the banks--and they don't need to charge fees to do it."

Eighty percent of credit unions, in fact, offer free checking accounts, the Post reports, quoting CUNA figures.

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