Money Chat: Are Bank Fees Unfair?

Amy He

By Amy He
Posted on Tue Apr 16, 2013, Last Updated on Wed Apr 17, 2013

Amy is a staff writer at MyBankTracker.com. She writes about banking and culture. More Columns »

Money Chat: Are Bank Fees Unfair?

Elvert Barnes / Flickr source

For this week’s money conversation, MyBankTracker discusses bank fees and whether they actually help people stay financially responsible, or if banks are the only ones to benefit.

Amy: I was hit with punitive fees after I graduated from school, and my bank account reverted from student checking to a basic checking account option, and I didn’t have the minimum balance required for a basic checking account, so I got hit with fees.

Thankfully, the bank was nice enough to reverse those fees once I told them that I had just graduated, but still, that’s the kind of thing that is very easy to miss if you’re not careful with reading your statements.

Laura: One time I had to stop payment and I got charged $30 for it for stopping a $60 check from going through.

Amy: Was this money you owed or… ?

Laura: There’s a funny story to this. One time in college, this guy rang my doorbell and he looked like a college student, so I thought it was a neighbor and let him in, and he ended up talking to me about how he was seeking donations for a library for children in less well-off areas, so I ended up giving him a check for $60.

Afterwards, I definitely was like, “Wait, I don’t want to do that…” so I went to get my check stopped.

Simon: Would you rather be out the $60 or pay the $30?

Amy: It means you’re still out $30 after all is said and done.

Laura: Better than $60!

Claire: Years ago, when I had a check stopped, it cost maybe like $10. I think if banks kept fees more reasonable — like $10 for a stop payment — people wouldn’t be so outraged and would be more inclined to just pay them.

Laura: But then again, aren’t banks businesses just like every other businesses? They are out to make money too, right?

Amy: Yeah, but I feel like the difference is that banking is the one sector that makes money off of the fact that someone may not have money. It’s completely ludicrous to me that banks punish — and stand to gain from — you for having no money. If you wanted to buy a lamp and you didn’t have money for it, the lamp store would just not profit from you. But if you don’t have enough money in your account — and I’m not even talking about getting hit with overdraft, if you just dip maybe below a certain minimum — you get hit with another fee. That’s just too much.

Simon: But the thing is, a lot of less well-off families might just opt for getting hit with an overdraft fee over not being able to pay, for example, their electricity bill. It’s better to owe the bank a little money over having their electricity shut off, and these things can be huge inconveniences.

Amy: You can argue that these fees can teach you about being more financially responsible, but somehow I just don’t buy that these fees are anything but punitive.

What do you think? Vote in our poll below!

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