Fees to meet you

Somewhere in dim memory, I recall an episode of Night Court in which some mogul is signing a check for something or other and Dan Fielding is looking over his shoulder. And suddenly Dan loses his composure: “You keep five figures in checking?”

Well, I don’t. If I did, and if I had a checking account at Chase, I could avoid the monthly service charge: all it takes is a direct deposit of $500-plus every month, or a minimum balance of $1500. If your response to that is “Yeah, right, how often do I have $1500 in checking?” you are not alone:

Are you nuts?! I mean, I keep this account TO PAY CHECKS. Of course I will have less than $1,500 daily balance on it! That’s the purpose of checking account — to be liquid and have a turnover. And I don’t have a direct deposit with anybody at the moment — btw, last I heard, businesses are not required to pay employees exclusively through direct deposit. So everybody who is not getting paychecks direct-deposited, in other words — freelancers and short-term contractors, or unemployed with less-than-$500 weekly checks, or pensioners — are getting discriminated against those with steady flow of income and get robbed, monthly!

This is, of course, consistent with everything the banking industry has said since the arrival of the CARD Act and the specter of the Durbin Amendment: “If we’re not allowed to gouge Customer A, we will be forced to gouge Customer B.”

The regional bank I use has a free-checking package still, though they operate in only three states. There is a service tier above that, which has more perks and which actually pays interest, though not much of it; it requires, however, five figures (!) in your combined accounts.


  1. Dan B »

    27 May 2011 · 2:36 am

    Arvest has a Fifty-Plus account that’s pays interest (such that it is nowadays) and has no fees.

  2. Vickie »

    27 May 2011 · 5:38 am

    So ironic this is posted now. I just had the same basic argument with TDBanknorth. They decided to now start charging a fee to use their ATM card on foreign ATM’s, but hey! I can avoid that fee by keep two grand monthly in my checking account! Yes! That account that is used to pay bills!
    It seems to me that if you have two grand to just keep lying around then you probably can afford an occasional $2 fee every so often. But the principle of the whole thing is infuriating.

  3. Tatyana »

    27 May 2011 · 7:49 am

    “Infuriating” is right. I should be used by now to deceptions and bullying, I know, but it was infuriating, indeed.

    I got a response from Chase Customer Service, quoting same passage and basically telling me: we changed the policy, now eat it. They happened to forget their assurances when they’ve acquired WaMu customers that conditions of our accounts will not change.

  4. Trumwill »

    27 May 2011 · 11:59 am

    Now I know why the bank people get so excited and start trying to sell me stuff when they bring up my account. We keep a $10,000 buffer (every paycheck, I take anything above that and transfer it). I thought that was on the upper-side of normal for people who don’t live paycheck to paycheck. We live in fear of overdrafting and the interest rates for transferring it to savings aren’t great.

  5. Dan B »

    27 May 2011 · 12:56 pm

    Banks larger than ‘regional’ don’t want individual customers. They want business customers. If you’re a typical American bank customer, you’re a nuisance, to be tolerated only as a possible in-road to a worthwhile customer.

    Remind me again, how much did Chase scarf up in Bush’s Bank Bailout of October 2008?

  6. ms7168 »

    28 May 2011 · 12:04 pm

    I wound up with Chase through the Liberty Bank – Bank One – Chase route.
    The main reason I like them is their online banking and online bill pay are free and pretty nice. Some banks have lousy online banking and charge for bill pay especially if you pay more than two or three bills per month.

    For a little while there they were foregoing the fee if you used the online bill pay and had some electronic transactions but now it’s strictly a $500 or larger direct deposit or maintain a $1,500 balance. Two direct deposits totaling $500 won’t work either.

    I think Dan is right. They don’t want individual customers anymore!

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