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San Francisco, CA –This week was monumental for consumers, who successfully pushed back against Bank of America’s planned $5 debit card fee. This weekend consumers will have the opportunity to tell their banks they will no longer accept the increase in outrageous bank fees. Initiated by a Los Angeles art gallery owner unhappy with her bank, November 5 has been dubbed Bank Transfer Day, when consumers will switch to banks providing affordable services, such as community banks and credit unions. The California Public Interest Education Fund (CALPIRG) encourages consumers to put their money with banks that serve their needs at the best price.
“Free market economics works both ways, and consumers should take their business to banks that don’t nickel and dime them,” said Jon Fox, a Consumer Advocate with CALPIRG, adding ”When big banks start charging for basic services like using your debit card, it’s time for consumers to vote with their wallets and take their business elsewhere.”
CALPIRG urges consumers to prepare for the bank move in advance, to avoid over-draft fees or missed reoccurring payments. Before consumers make the move, they will want to complete the following steps:
Step 1: Open a new account at a bank or credit union of your choice.
Step 2: Switch all automatic withdrawals and deposits to your new bank. These include direct salary deposits and auto bill payments.
Step 3: Write a check to yourself for the amount remaining in your old bank account and deposit it in your new account. Don't forget to figure in any outstanding checks or automatic payments since automatic withdrawals or outstanding checks can overdraw your account.
WARNING: Your account is not closed yet
Step 4: Once your account balance is at $0, call your old bank’s customer service line and let them know you would like to close your account. Have your account information ready when you call. (A bank statement should have most of the information you'll need).
To help ease the bank move, CALPIRG put together the following tips: [The full version is available here]
- COMPARE PRICES: Look at your old bank statements and note what types of transactions you regularly make and evaluate other offers according to your own needs as a yardstick. Look at bankrate.com, moneyrates.com, findabetterbank.com, bankfox.com, mybanktracker.com and similar sites.
- MAKE NOISE: Sometimes you can get a better deal at a bank just by asking for it. Many banks and credit unions offer free or lower cost checking for seniors and students.
- BANK AT A CREDIT UNION, NOT AT A BANK: Credit unions are federally insured member-owned alternatives to commercial banks. Fees and balances are lower; interest rates on loans are better. Look at findacreditunion.com to find a credit union near you.
- BANK AT A LOCAL BANK, NOT A BIG BANK: Smaller banks often have lower prices and better service, than faceless big banks. Bigger banks may have more of their own “free” ATMs, but smaller banks (and credit unions) often offer fee-free access to ATMs.
- CHECK OUT INTERNET BANKS:Banks without branches often offer better deals, if you are comfortable banking over the Internet instead of walking into branches to bank. Note: Check FDIC.gov to confirm you found a federally insured bank.
- LOOK FOR OTHER FREE CHECKING OPTIONS: Many banks offer free checking, especially if you have a regular automatic payroll or other direct deposit. Get free checking with several account relationships or even if you simply make 5 or more monthly transfers, including debits, in or out of the account.
“The recent attempt to add a debit card fee, and the public outrage that followed, shows that consumers do have the power to influence corporate decisions. Consumer activism will ensure that this trend continues to their benefit.” concluded Jon Fox.
For more information contact:
Jon Fox, CALPIRG Consumer Advocate
Office: (415) 622 0039 x309
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The California Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (CALPIRG) is a result-oriented public interest group that protects consumers, encourages a fair sustainable economy, and fosters responsive democratic governance.
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