Bank fees could fall in 2013, penalty fees may rise

Brian Moynihan

Brian Moynihan

Banking experts recently predicted that bank fees will see a decline in the amount of fees charged, though penalty fees could increase even higher.

“The whole landscape changed after the election,” Ken Thomas, an independent bank consultant and economist, said, according to Time.

Thomas said that, with the re-election of President Obama and the appointment of Elizabeth Warren, an advocate of Wall Street reform, “regulators feel emboldened.”

“They feel a new sense of purpose,” Thomas said, Time reports. “Banks want to do what they can do to minimize complaints. They’re being a little more consumer sensitive than they were before.”

Bank of America announced last year that it would begin charging a $5 monthly fee for debit cards. Public rebuke, however, led the bank to scrap the plan.  Consumer backlash could lead regulators to examine the business practices of financial institutions, which could draw even greater scrutiny to banks.

Fees will not, however, suddenly disappear. Bank of America is currently testing monthly account fees ranging from $6 to $25 in three states, according to Time.

Overall, most big banks have moved away from charging new fees and are beginning to increase existing fees instead.

“Looking across all banks, and not just the big banks, there are continuing revenue pressures to increase fees because the Fed had promised to hold interest rates quite low for at least next two or three years,” Bert Ely, a banking consultant, said, Time reports.

Bank of America is currently trying to push lower-balance customers to set up direct deposit or make use of some of the bank’s other services, like loans. The bank is also considering high-tech mobile banking tools to cut back on expenses.

Brian Moynihan, Bank of America’s CEO, said that if the bank can cut costs through mobile services, it can avoid charging other account-related fees, such as overdraft fees, according to Time.

Thomas said that banks still have the ability to change overdraft and other existing penalty fees.

“That’s where we’ll see the movement,” Thomas said, Time reports. “It’ll be a silent fee creep on the existing fees as opposed to introducing new fees.”

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