It's not often you hear a lawmaker publicly target a specific business, by name, with his ire, so it was particularly striking to hear Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, lash out at Bank of America for announcing just days ago that it would levy a $5 per month fee on its debit card customers.
"Bank of America customers, vote with your feet. Get the heck out of that bank," the Illinois senator urged. "Find yourself a bank or credit union that won't gouge you for $5 a month and still will give you a debit card that you can use every single day."
Some, including many Republicans, have blamed the fee hike on a provision authored by Durbin in the financial regulatory reform bill, known as "Dodd-Frank", that capped the fees banks can charge retailers for debit card transactions. The Federal Reserve implemented a higher cap than some expected, 24 cents per transaction, though that is still 20 cents lower than what banks used to charge merchants.
And though Durbin singled out Bank of America, the firm was not alone in raising fees on debit cards. SunTrust began charging a $5 debit card fee on its basic checking accounts this summer. Regions Financial has said it plans to start charging a $4 fee next month. Chase and Wells Fargo are also testing $3 monthly debit card fees in select markets, though it's unclear if the fee hike will be permanent.
But Bank of America was a recipient of a multi-billion government bailout after, in Durbin's words, "helping to drive our economy off the cliff's edge in 2008" because of "their stupidity, their greed, and their mistakes, and it was just as happy to take that money and hand out $3.3 billion in employee bonuses in the same year."
It was a move that infuriated many at the time, but one thing the senator failed to note in his stinging speech Monday -- the institution repaid U.S. taxpayers in full.
Still, Bank of America, Durbin said, is merely "crying poverty" for no reason, and it, along with other banks who follow suit, are being opportunistic. "This new reform of the swipe fee may cost Bank of America $1 billion a year in revenue. Guess what? If you do the calculation, the $5 a month...(will)...bring back twice as much as their projected loss on this new law. They're overcharging their own customers," the senator accused.
The senator sent a letter Monday to Bank of America's president, Brian Moynihan, calling on him to "justify this $5 monthly fee based on their projected debit card transaction losses and the number of people that they have holding debit cards by their company."
*Fox reached out to Bank of America for comment. No reply has yet been sent.