Bank of America is eliminating this month's e-banking accounts, transferring their owners to accounts that charge a maintenance fee if they do not maintain a minimum balance or get a direct deposit. The movement ends a program introduced in 2010 and completes a gradual phase-out initiated several years ago, when the bank stopped offering eBanking as an option for new customers.
The eBanking account had offered customers a checking account at no monthly charge, provided their business was online or at ATMs. If eBanking customers wanted to get their statements in the mail and talk to the tellers in person, the accounts would have a monthly fee of $ 8.95.
Now, the bank has exchanged the remaining customers with Core Checking, an account that requires customers to maintain a minimum daily balance of $ 1,500 or at least one direct deposit per month of $ 250 or more, amounting to $ 3,000 year. Customers of these accounts charge $ 12 per month if they can not meet these requirements.
"This is one of the lowest ratings in the industry and has great value," Bank of America spokeswoman Betty Riess told CNBC. He added that the Core Checking option "provides full access to all of our financial centers, ATMs, mobile banking and online" and told the Chicago Tribune that, in the words of the newspaper, "only a small number of customers still had accounts of electronic banking".  That has done little to alleviate the concerns of critics that the measure will disproportionately hurt the bank's low-income clients, who would be more likely to struggle to meet Core Checking requirements.
"The debate over the accounts and fees of the Bank of America points to a larger problem of economic justice: people with less income pay more to obtain cash, make payments and conduct their business," said Dory Rand, president of the Institute. Woodstock, at Tribune .
"Without access to secure and affordable bank accounts, low-income consumers often resort to costly alternative financial services, such as currency exchanges or check cashing," he continued. "The bottom line is: the most vulnerable financially need more and better options to conduct their business and participate in the main financial stream."
A study published last fall by Bankrate.com found that Americans with an annual family income of less than $ 30,000 pay more than three times the monthly bank rates paid by higher-income groups: an average of $ 31 per month , compared to an average of $ 9 for other income groups.
That's one of the reasons why "only 59% of US adults with household incomes below $ 30,000 per year even have a checking account," according to the study.
The change has provoked a violent reaction online, which includes a tweeters snowdrift professing his intention of close his accounts and criticizing the bank for its effects on low-income clients . A Change.org petition in protest of the measure has also attracted more than 86,000 signatures at the time of writing.
"Bank of America was one of the only brick and mortar banks that offered free checking accounts to their customers." The creator of the petition, Mel San, wrote in his description.
"Now sadly, the Bank of America seems to have changed its mind and wants to stop offering free services: checking accounts to the American public."
CNBC reports that the bank's financial director, Paul Donofrio, told the Wall Street analysts that the bank's actions are driven by the desire to "balance" the benefits for all.
"All I can tell you that we are going to balance the needs of our customers," he said, "and we will balance the competitive market with the interests of our shareholders and do the right thing for all parties."