Debit Card and Usage Fees: Where We Stand

What has your bank done for you lately? The answer alone is an unsettling one for many typical bank customers. As a company and credit union, we understand the recent frustrations expressed by the general population concerning bank fees. We sympathize. Why? Because we do not believe in fees.

Unfortunately, other financial institutions feel differently. Last week, Bank of America announced its plans to introduce a $5 monthly fee to all customers who make debit card purchases. The fee will go into effect in 2012. Other banks (i.e. Wells Fargo and Chase) are testing $3 monthly debit card fees, while Citibank will begin charging fees on accounts with low balances.

Cue in fun fact:

“Industrywide, these processing fees brought in $19 billion for banks in 2009, according to the Nilson Report, which tracks card payments.” (source)

The banks are passing what they perceive to be a “loss” to the consumer. The action is legal but is it morally ethical?

We don’t like fees, never have. We apply this sentiment to our various products/services. Across the board, our members’ accounts carry no monthly and usage fees. Why would they? You’re giving us your business and it is our responsibility as the keeper of your funds to protect those assets and you. Also, each of our credit union members have one vote, which means that they decide on matters like who becomes part of the company’s Board of Directors. Essentially, our members are our stockholders, so we listen and respond accordingly. This is what makes credit unions different – customers/members are not just an account or a number. You have a voice and you matter. Here’s an interesting finding to consider:

“A recent Associated Press-GfK poll of consumers found that 66% would choose another payment method if a $5 monthly debit usage fee were imposed by their bank.” (source)

Are you part of this 66%? If so, is joining a credit union part of the better solution?

As a company and business, we understand that other financial institutions need to stay afloat, especially during tough times. But as a customer-oriented entity, should your company’s financial security come at a cost to the customers and members who add value and create business for you? Yes, it can be hard to please everyone all the time. However, it should be the company’s priority to find a good balance between customer wants and the company’s needs.

We feel it’s important to continually build the relationship with our members and community. Sure, we’re a credit union in the general scheme of things, but that shouldn’t stop us or any other credit union from focusing on people, not figures. If we want to be successful and make our members successful, we need to focus on individuals, relationships and community. We and other members of the business community may never have all of these, maybe not all at once, but we can try to. Let’s be realistic, it’s about relationships not just transactions.


About the Author

Alejandra Gutierrez Alex is the new Social Media Specialist for the ILWU Credit Union. She's a 'nerd' at heart who enjoys community building. Her obsessions: baked goods and old mariachi ballads.