Green Versus Greed: Taking Sides on New Bank of America Fee

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The scoop by American Banker last week that Bank of America is charging some new customers a fee for paper statements generated a torrent of comments across the blogosphere

The accounts are being pilot tested in Georgia, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was quick to pick up the story on its website; 115 readers posted comments during the next day.

There was the inevitable slew of "just another way of lining the pockets of greedy bank executives" type of comment, some of which compared the bank with airlines for charging "every little fee they can get away with."

But some approved of the nudge toward paperless banking for environmental reasons. "If it were the government suggesting a tax on paper statements, something like this would be touted as a necessary and progressive environmental initiative," one comment said. The green contingent overlapped with those who "hate paper bills/statements and switched long ago to electronic everything." One Gen Y commenter suggested "saving the PDFs onto a flash drive, then put them in your safe. That’s probably more permanent than a piece of paper would ever be," adding, "we’re the audience for this type of account, so the $8.95 fee is barely relevant."

Another poster had an idea for B of A to improve service on this account: "How about e-mailing the statement as a PDF? No print and mailing costs to recover from the customers, yet still delivering the document directly to them. Don’t force them to go back to the website to get their documents."

Yet another valued free online access over free statements: "As long as BOA or others don’t start charging for online bill-pay. Who cares?"

A few posters noted the timing, just as reg reform cleared the Senate. One asked, "Anyone else think it is quite a coincidence that Obama’s financial reform package is about to get passed today?" Another said, "Expect more banks besides BoA to start charging for more services that used to be free because Congress has meddled where they had no business going and has eliminated many bank revenue sources."

Many comments did not quite defend the bank’s move but called the furor foolish. "Y’all are spoiled from a generation of ‘free checking.’ In the day a basic checking account cost $5/mo and checks were a nickel each," one commenter wrote, saying that in light of the Reg E changes the consumer will "pay overdraft fees or pay account fees, but pay you will." Proponents of small institutions were out in force; many said the simple solution is to "take charge — sign up at a credit union or small local bank." The CEO of a community bank weighed in to counter the enthusiasm for credit unions, saying, "our industry is evolving, and all banks with the regulatory scrutiny that we are under are having to look at the way we are doing business."

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