Banking is a profitable business. But it is somewhat less profitable than it was a few years ago. A reasonable person might say "Good, a few years ago it was too profitable due to unfair business practices." Reasonable people are not bankers.
The response by the banking industry to recent laws designed to curb outrageous fees by banks has been to institute more, newer, different outrageous fees. Some, like pricey debit card fees, backfired; others, like increased fees on checking accounts, sailed through without provoking much outrage at all.
Bankers are greedy, but not stupid. They learn from every PR mistake. The NYT today says that banks are "under intense pressure to make up an estimated $12 billion a year of income," because of course the prospect of somewhat lower profits in exchange for fairness to consumers is incomprehensible to bank shareholders. And where might they "make up" those billions? New fees, of course. And where might those fees come from? The paper points to this enlightening Pew report from last year, which identified 49(!) separate fees that a consumer could potentially incur on a checking account. Let's list some but not all! How much are you paying?
- Monthly account maintenance fee.
- Minimum account balance fee.
- Non-direct deposit fee.
- Bank ATM fee.
- Non-bank ATM fee.
- Returned check fee.
- Stop payment fee.
- Miscellaneous "service" fees.
- Overdraft fee.
- Extended overdraft penalty fee.
- Lowered account interest.
- Account closing fee.
The account closing fee is our favorite. We see great growth potential for banks in this area! "Oh, you want to close your account to protest Wall Street. Yes sir, here you go, minus our 100% account closing fee."
But uh, don't worry. Money is a lie and whatnot.
[NYT, photo via AP]