Wells Fargo's $3 Debit Card Charge: A Sign of More Bank Fees to Come?


A new report emerged Tuesday that Wells Fargo (WFC) will begin charging some customers $3 every month to use their debit card -- further indication that banks are putting on the squeeze as new swipe-card regulations are set to take effect.

Wells Fargo already sent letters to customers in Georgia, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington that the fees will begin Oct. 14, according to MyBankTracker.com. That's just two weeks after Federal Reserve-mandated rules slash the amount banks can charge retailers for every debit card purchase. Regulators reduced the maximum bank take on each transaction from 44 cents to 24 cents.

A chain reaction was already in effect before Wells Fargo acted. In March, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) began assessing a $3 service fee for debit card use and $15 for checking accounts in certain regions, according to reports. Chase has also pondered the idea of capping the amount per debit-card purchase at $50 to $100, along with other major institutions such as Citigroup and Bank of America, the New York Post reported.

Not only would customers not be able to pay for items as modest as a children's bicycle with the debit card, they would likely be forced to make more individual transactions that would generate more charges.

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In another strategy to offset anticipated losses from the upcoming Fed reductions, Bank of America (BAC) already raised its ATM fee to $3.

The bad news may keep coming for Wells Fargo customers. At a recent conference, Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO John Stumpf outlined other possible revenue generators, including raising minimum account balances and slapping on a fee for even the right to have a debit card, MyBankTracker wrote.

Wells Fargo estimated it would save more than $200 million in losses with the $3 debit card fee. But it might also anger a lot of account holders in the process. If the fee were to go in effect nationwide, it would hit 40 million Wells Fargo customers, the article said.

While the banks figure out to the penny how to offset the inhibited profit flow, one wonders if anyone in the industry is putting a price on customer resentment?