Friday, September 30, 2011
The Dick Durbin Bank Fees
Wall Street Journal
September 29, 2011
This Saturday, government price controls on debit card interchange fees (which card issuers charge to merchants) go into effect. The controls are the result of the Durbin amendment to last year's Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. They were enacted at the behest of big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Walgreen's, which stand to gain a multimillion-dollar windfall. But the controls are already transforming the retail banking landscape.
The Durbin amendment tasked the Federal Reserve with establishing the allowable maximum interchange fees. It originally intended to slash them by 70%-80%. In response to a firestorm of criticism, the Fed cut the fees about in half, to about 24 cents per transaction from an average of 44 cents per transaction, including a one-penny allowance for fraud prevention. The new fee limits apply to any bank with more than $10 billion in assets.
Faced with a dramatic cut in revenues (estimated to be $6.6 billion by Javelin Strategy & Research, a global financial services consultancy), banks have already imposed new monthly maintenance fees—usually from $36 to $60 per year—on standard checking and debit-card accounts, as well as new or higher fees on particular bank services. While wealthier consumers have avoided many of these new fees—for example, by maintaining a sufficiently high minimum balance—a Bankrate survey released this week reported that only 45% of traditional checking accounts are free, down from 75% in two years.
For the debit cards fee controversy see also here, here, here, here and here.
Posted by Yulie Foka at 8:30 AM