Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bruised Banks Passed Their Pain to Consumers

--Banks have been pummeled by bad loans and are jacking up fees such as fees charged for using ATM --Earlier this month, for example, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. started charging customers of other banks $3 nearly every time they use one of the bank's 9,100 ATMs. Before that, the fee ranged from $1.50 to $2. --Also rising are penalties for having insufficient funds in an account, which can be caused by bouncing a check or using debt-card purchase that exceed the account balance. --Mr. Horowitz, the Citigroup analyst, estimates that insufficient-funds fees rake in $30 billion to $40 billion a year. That is equivalent to as much as 70% of the total fee income U.S. banks get from consumer businesses. --Even though banks are hungry for revenue, few are likely to abandon the widespread practice of free checking accounts -- at least for customers with healthy balances -- or low-cost online banking. That is because those products are fiercely competitive.

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