Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like bank fees any more than anybody else. To avoid some of them, I’m sure I Iose money, net, on zero or near-zero interest rate balances at my bank. For the record, I don’t use my debit card except for an occasional ATM withdrawal of cash.
Having said that, I think it is unfortunate in at least one respect that Bank of America withdrew its $5 per month fee for its debit card use. It sends the message that such fees are arbitrary, unfair, and may be withdrawn if we yell loud enough. It confirms the Occupy Wall Street view that demonstrations can change economics. It confirms the popular view that “It’s my money. So, why should a bank charge me for using or getting my own money?” It confirms the popular view that expensive electronic payments systems are God-given and free for all of us to use. It seems to say that you can pass a law capping bank charges to merchants to cover costs without their needing to make up the loss somewhere else. It seems to be saying that, yes, Virginia, there is a free lunch after all.
That’s probably not the lesson we should be learning these days.