BofA Announces New Deposit Fees

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You knew it was coming: Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) has fired one of the first salvos in the “fee management” game. The bank announced in early January that it’s revamping its consumer account and fee programs, and that will likely mean higher fees for customers.

The fee changes come hard on the heels of the bank’s 4th quarter earnings statement, where Bank of America announced $1.2 billion in net losses. That figure does include $2 billion in accounting charges and Bank of America did earn $10.2 billion in 2010 before additional charges.

"Last year was a necessary repair and rebuilding year," president and chief executive officer Brian Moynihan said of the banks' efforts to rejigger its balance sheet. "Our results reflect the progress we are making at putting legacy - primarily mortgage-related - issues behind us. We earned $10.2 billion before goodwill impairment charges, rebuilt our capital positions, reduced the risk on our balance sheet and shed more than $19 billion in assets that didn't directly serve customers and clients."

The banking behemoth also reported that ending deposit balances hit $1 trillion by the end of 2010, cementing Bank of America’s status as the largest consumer banking institution in the U.S. Currently, it has banking relationships with about half of all U.S. households.

But Bank of America didn’t reach that top spot by being timid. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the bank will begin implementing a $6 monthly fee on its most basic consumer bank accounts. In addition, The Journal reports that bank executives have sent word that there will be no option for account holders to waive the monthly fees.

The bank is reportedly building a “ladder” approach to its deposit fee structure. The more amenities and features you want from your Bank of America deposit account, the more monthly fees you’ll pay – up to $25 in monthly charges. The bank will allow some fee waivers on accounts with higher service fees, but only if the customer meets strict criteria, like minimum account balances, minimum debit card transactions and certain online banking usage conditions.

While Bank of America won't elaborate on this, banks typically re-institute fees when consumers don’t meet those monthly deposit account conditions.

The bank’s new ladder approach will reportedly include four new deposit banking categories:

•    Premium – For consumers who want “top of the line” deposit account features
•    Enhanced – For consumers who want some additional account features
•    Ebanking – For online banking customers
•    Essentials – a basic bank account for customers who don’t want lots of account features.

A memo from Joseph Price, president of consumer and small business banking at Bank of America, says that the tiered structure allows consumers to “choose the way they pay us,” The Journal reports.

But as the new fee structure likely demonstrates, that choice is limited. It looks like customers will have to pay Bank of America something – or not bank there at all.

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