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March 11, 2012

Higher Fees? Let’s Celebrate

“But while the new fees are a clear sign of big-bank rapaciousness, they also signal big-bank desperation in the face of new consumer protections. The standard checking-account business model has been upended. In the short term, that means consumers will suffer. But it also means that the biggest banks will suffer the most.”

“Until recently, banks made money off checking accounts through, essentially, a bait-and-switch. Free checking was free only in the narrowest terms; hidden overdraft fees and other charges meant that a careless account holder could rack up $30 in charges for a $4 cup of coffee — and the banks did everything they could to maximize the number of overdrafts that their customers incurred, for example by manipulating the order of purchases so that large ones come before smaller ones, which can increase the number of charges.”

“Even better, the banks could make us feel as if it was our fault. If you spent more money than was in your account, that $30 charge was no one’s fault but your own, right?”

“Not everybody incurred those fees, of course. But those who did — often the poorest Americans, who were least able to afford them — effectively subsidized everybody else. It was a profoundly regressive and unfair system, designed to prey with scientific precision on our most human foibles and weaknesses.”

Read the full Op Ed here.

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