Bank of America will start charging debit-card users $5 a month to pay for purchases. The move comes as the cards increasingly replace cash and as banks look for ways to offset the loss of revenue from a new rule that will limit how much they can collect from merchants.
Paying to use a debit card was unheard of before this year and is still a novel concept for many consumers. But several banks have recently introduced or started testing debit card fees. That's in addition to the spate of other unwelcome changes checking account customers have seen in the past year. Bank of America will begin charging the fee early next year.
Bank of America's announcement carries added weight because it is the largest U.S. bank by deposits.
The fee will apply to basic accounts, which are marketed toward those with modest balances, and will be in addition to any existing monthly service fees. For example, one such account charges a $12 monthly fee unless customers meet certain conditions, such as maintaining a minimum average balance of $1,500.
Customers will only be charged the fee if they use their debit cards for purchases in any given month, said Anne Pace, a Bank of America spokeswoman. Those who only use their cards at ATMs won't have to pay.
The debit card fee is just the latest twist in the rapidly evolving market for checking accounts.