January 26 — Bank of America recently announced changes that will make it more difficult for customers to quality for free checking accounts, and some customers aren’t happy about it. Arguing that the new requirements will hit lower-income individuals and families hardest, they have started a Change.org petition asking B of A to drop the criteria.
The changes, which only affect online-only customers, require a $12 monthly fee unless account holders have a direct monthly deposit of $250 or more or maintain a daily balance of at least $1,500. Previous to this, e-banking accounts were free, as long as these customers did not use tellers for routine transactions. (Doing so would result in a $8.95 monthly fee.) Under the new requirements, students under age 24 will still have access to free regular checking services, but all other customers will be switched to regular, paid accounts.
Bank of America has stated that the change is not intended to target low-income customers. “Our Core Checking account provides full access to all our financial centers, ATMs, mobile and online banking and offers several ways to avoid a monthly fee, including a monthly direct deposit of $250, which equates to $3,000 annually,” said Betty Reiss, a spokesperson for the bank. “This is one of the lowest qualifiers in the industry and a great value.”
However, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has issued a statement regarding the effects lack of access to affordable banking can have one low-income individuals: “[Low-income individuals] are left vulnerable to costly check-cashing outlets, pawnshops and other predatory services.” Her organization works to combat social inequality.
The petition, which can be found here, has over 105,000 signatures as of this writing.