Students fear debit card fees

By Kylynn Pelkey |


Photo by Phillip C Sunkel IV

Flagler College seniors, Seth Teston and Kathleen Fitzpatrick, shared the same response after learning that most major banks will start charging a monthly fee for debit card use: they think it’s crap.

Bank of America, the largest bank in the U.S. measured by deposits, plans to charge a $5 fee every month a customer swipes their debit card. However, the bank will not charge for a customer to use their debit card at an ATM.

Wells Fargo is currently testing a $3 charge per month for debit card use in specific states. The banks plan to enact the fee starting next year.

Fitzpatrick, 22, a communications major, said she was angry when she heard her bank, Bank of America, would start charging for something they had previously advertised as free.

“I’m not gonna be swiping my card anymore at the store if they do that,” Fitzpatrick said. But soon her anger turned into a helpless shrug. “I’ll probably just end up paying it, what can I do about it?”

According to an article published in USA Today, an Associated Press-GfK poll found that 66 percent of debit card users said they would find another way to pay if their bank charged a $5 fee.

Teston, 21, a Spanish and Latin American studies major, said he is one of the 66 percent who would discontinue using their debit cards and find another way to pay.

“It might be beneficial in the way that people would not be susceptible to overcharging their cards,” Teston said. “It might help people be more frugal, the less debt people accrue means that there will be less inflation and it will be a more stable basis for our economy. And this all stems back to people using their cards.”

A Flagler College alumnus, Ben De La Cruz, 24, has a different reaction to the debit card fee. De La Cruz said he needs to use plastic to gain credit and he has larger expenses that he can’t necessarily pay cash for.

“I would just go the credit route,” De La Cruz said. “It’s nice to have a card with a national bank so you can use it when you travel.”

But the question students are asking is: why are the banks cancelling their previously advertised “free checking” and now charging a fee?

Bart Narter, a bank analyst with Celent consulting firm, reported to USA Today that banks are charging the fee to encourage users like De La Cruz to go the credit card route, which is much more profitable for banks than debit card use.

Many Flagler students are discouraged about their future in using banks and think that banks are getting greedy and monopolizing.

“It’s all about the money,” said Autumn Aspen, 21, a Flagler alumnus. “You can’t get anything for free these days.”

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