Banks quietly levy new fees to beat restrictive regulatory climate

Big banks, faced with falling revenues and a regulatory climate that gives them fewer creative ways to make money, are quietly levying or experimenting with fees that would surely outrage customers.

Bank of America angered customers last fall when it tried to impose a $5 monthly fee for using a debit card, forcing J P Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo to back off from plans to impose their own fees.

But that has not stopped major banks from imposing or testing other fees:

Customers of Wells Fargo are paying $15 a month since November for some checking accounts unless customers held three accounts with the bank, and maintained a minimum balance of $7,500 or had a Wells Fargo mortgage.

A number of Citibank customers are being charged $20 a month unless they kept $15,000 in their accounts, up from $6,000 before December and are also being charged a $2 fee for using non-Citi ATMs if their balance fell below the minimum.

Even after its experience last fall when it tried to impose a $5 monthly fee for debit card transactions, Bank of America is testing a menu of checking accounts in Georgia, Massachusetts and Arizona with monthly fees of $6 to $25.