Remember when Congress saved America's poor people from those unfair fees that their banks were charging? Overdraft fees were particularly objectionable, you see, because they were hitting the people who could least afford them—people who didn't have any money in their bank accounts!—and forcing them to subsidize other accounts.
Then, in an utterly unforeseen turn of events, Bank of America decided to announce some new fees on debit card usage. Everyone flipped out and started trying to light things made of plastic on fire. Bank of America backed off. And now poor people won't get charged for banking services ever again.
Bank of America abandoned its $5 a month debit card usage fee in late October amid a firestorm of criticism. Yet, it more quietly raised the cost of its basic MyAccess checking account by more than $3 a month earlier this year. Monthly maintenance fees now run $12 a month, up from $8.95.
Chase and Citigroup, which quickly distanced themselves from the debit card usage fee, ratcheted up the price of their entry-level checking products without the public relations nightmare. This month, Citigroup's basic checking account jumped to $10 a month, up from $8. Chase raised the fee on its standard checking account to $12 a month in February; many of those customers were previously charged nothing at all.
The era of free checking is officially over. Again.
Meanwhile, poor people increasingly prefer to do their banking at Walmart. (Not coincidentally, Walmart backed the legislation that started this cascade of feetasticness.) Of course, lots of people have been getting their bank on at payday lenders, check cashers, and other not-banks for a while now.
As Peter Suderman notes: "You Can't Call It an Unintended Consequence If You Knew It Was Going to Happen."