Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bank of America Backs Down On $5 Monthly Debit Card Fee

Graphic: Joe Lackow
As it turns out, it was a short wait before Bank of America decided to cancel the $5 monthly debit card fee, wherein the customer is explicitly charged for accessing their own money with a card instead of a paper check.  Wasn't the whole idea to use the cheaper, greener card payment?  Nuh uh.  I guess.

Anyway, the bank announced today that they are backing down.    And the statement came directly from the COO, who is probably livid with his PR people right about now.  The official statement, from David Darnell, the Bank's Co-COO, which is probably just how Dave feels today.

"In response to customer concerns and the changing competitive marketplace, Bank of America no longer intends to implement a debit usage fee.  We have listened to our customers very closely over the last few weeks and recognize their concern with our proposed debit usage fee,  Our customers’ voices are most important to us. As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so."

In other words, we invited regulatory, governmental and public scrutiny, we misinterpreted our original customer research, we were cynical about the stickiness of electronic banking and its weight on customer inertia, we failed to gauge the social climate about as badly as we misjudged the competitive climate - and our major competitors became so upset that we upset consumers so much, they cut and ran and left us twisting in the wind, alone.

I know that Pete Hart, who I worked for at First Interstate and who later became President of MasterCard and Cirrus and knows as much about how people like to use payment cards as anyone ever has, is bemused right now.  The industry got a black eye, and the COO had to step in, because they just don't have solid marketing people and strategic planners like Pete Hart and Dick Rosenberg at the helms of these big banks anymore.

Leading a balanced life with Richard M. Rosenberg, former CEO of Bank of America from Jewish Community Federation on Vimeo
Pete has retired, but Dick - who once ran Bank of America, and when he did, said that the assets of the bank walk out the door and go home every night - will still tell you how to live a balanced life.

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