Two decades ago, I opened a bank account at Washington Mutual, a regional bank here in the northwest. At the time, they were a responsible and accountable institution and I was proud to be associated with them. As time passed, they fell into the trap of so many banks and involved themselves with mortgage securities and eventually overextended to the point that they found themselves nearly bankrupt.
Financial giant Chase Bank swept in and bought out WaMu over a weekend, and before we knew it our friendly local bank became a cog in a cold international machine. We customers received letters assuring us that our accounts would remain unchanged, aside from the drops in savings interest rates, CD rates, checking interest, and other changes. Still, my free checking remained free, and I kept my account open with them as I had a number of automatic withdrawals funneled through my account.
Today, however, I received a letter from the bank announcing some changes to my "free" checking account. No longer a free account, my new "Total Checking" account now carries a $10 monthly fee. You can avoid this monthly fee if you meet one of the following conditions.
1: $1,500 minimum daily balance
2. $5,000 average monthly balance
3: $25/month other fees
4: One direct deposit of $500/month
Now, at first, the fourth option did seem to be somewhat reasonable... until you realize that it's not $500 worth of deposits per month... it's ONE deposit of that much. So if you're an average person making an average wage and get a weekly paycheck - even if you deposit the entire post-tax amount - you'll still have to pay the $10 monthly fee. That is, unless you happen to have a $1500 cushion in your account.
It's not even "poor" people who take home less than $500 a week. That's nearing the median income, if you consider that $500 take-home is about $700 gross (or $35k/year) in the best case scenarios. Take home $475 per week, every week? Tough luck, that's going to cost you.
Shame on you, Chase Bank, for finding a way to screw over the hard-working middle class customers who manage to keep their checking accounts in positive territory and avoid ridiculous fees. I've already made the calls necessary to cancel all of my direct payments through this account, and will be walking down to my local branch to close out my account as soon as this is posted. I've had a savings account with my credit union for some time now, looks like they'll be receiving all of my checking business as well. A change I'd say is long overdue.