When we reported that Bank of America will be the first bank to institute debit card fees we made the following less than insightful observation: "The problem is that the bulk of depositor clients will simply walk away from Bank of America (which had $1,038 billion in deposits as of June 30), and any other institutions that piggy back on this, and from a game theory perspective, everyone has to do it, or nobody will do it." Well, Citigroup, which had no other choice, has just decided to follow in BofA's footsteps, which i) proves there is indeed a collusive move of desperation by the bank cartel, which in a normal country would see at least a statement from Eric Rip Van Holder, and ii) our thesis about America's impatience with petty theft - they are more than ok with grand scale larson such as that by the Fed via shadow inflation and currency devaluation, but when it comes to paying up an additional $5/month, well, just look at Netflix, which instituted a $6/month price hike two months ago... and is now fighting for survival. As for the exemption requirements, they will likely be the same as Bank of Countrywide Lynch's: either have a mortgage with the TBTF behemoth, or have $20k in a deposit account - both which will likely not be much of a help to 90%+ of the bank clients. The biggest problem is that suddenly at risk are $1.9 trillion in deposits - $1 trillion at BofA, $866 billion at Citi. While the financial crisis did little to dent the banks' deposit buffer, it will be highly ironic if it is an act of the banks themselves that begins the great bank run that resets it all...
From the LA Times:
Another day, another new bank fee.
As the uproar swelled over Bank of America Corp.'s planned $5 monthly charge for debit card use, megabank rival Citigroup Inc. was notifying many Citibank customers that they soon would have to start paying for their checking accounts unless they maintained significantly higher balances.
Letters are going out across the country alerting Citi customers of account changes, said the bank's retail banking chief, Stephen Troutner. In many cases, that means customers will have to maintain fatter balances to avoid fees, although Troutner said a basic account option makes dodging charges easier.
Higher fees are the new reality in retail banking, where regulations adopted in the aftermath of the bank bailouts have reduced revenue from several controversial fees by billions of dollars. At the same time, banks have seen their lending income decline due to the sluggish economy and low interest rates.
We conducted extensive surveys with our customers, and no one wanted to pay to use debit cards," Troutner said.
One day after announcing the new debit card fee, Bank of America was inundated with visits, calls and emails from customers.
"We are doing our best to explain the impacts, the value and convenience the debit card offers and how to avoid the fee if necessary," spokeswoman Anne Pace said.
Short of taking out a BofA mortgage or depositing $20,000 with the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank, the way to avoid the fee is to avoid making purchases with debit cards and using them only for ATM transactions, which remain free.
And there you have it: the idiocy that is Bernanke's plan to invert the 2s10s is about to succeed in achieving what HuffPo's failed attempt to get Americans to move their money from TBTFs to community banks tried so hard to do for months.
To keep track of just how suicidal this act will be for the banks, keep track of the weekly M2 numbers which show the non-seasonally adjusted metrics for various checking and debit account categories. We are confident the line chart will start at the top left and go to the bottom right.