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Wells Fargo testing $3 debit card fee

Wells Fargo has announced that it is joining other card issuers by testing programs to charge some debit card users $3 a month for using their cards.

"We are joining other debit card insurers in testing a monthly debit activity fee ($3) on a subset of checking products for customers that prefer to use their debit card," Lisa Westermann, Wells Fargo's assistant vice president of public relations for card services and consumer lending, wrote in an emailed statement, CreditCards.com reports. "Customers will not be charged a fee if they do not use their debit or ATM card to make purchases or payments."

The move comes as a response to a new federal rule knocking down the amount banks are allowed to charge for debit card swipe fees from 44 cents to 21 cents.

Frank Keating, the president of the American Bankers Association, said in June that the debit swipe fee cap would cause a 45 percent drop in revenues and predicted lenders would charge "higher fees for basic banking services," CreditCards.com reports.

Starting mid-Oct., Wells Fargo debit card customers in Oregon, New Mexico, Georgia, Washington and Nevada will see a “debit card activity fee” on their monthly statements beginning Nov. 14. The fee will be charged if customers make at least one purchase during the billing cycle on a card hooked up to a checking account.

Earlier this year Chase Card Services began testing a similar fee in a small market.

An Associated Press/GfK poll conducted in June found that nearly six in 10 respondents with debit cards said they would switch to another form of payment if their bank instituted a $3 per month usage fee, CreditCards.com reports. Only 38 percent said they would keep the debit card.

Financial experts said that banks are trying to drive customers away from debit cards and are pushing them to payment methods that have higher interchange.

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