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Overwhelming Majority of Consumers Would Change Financial Institutions to Avoid Paying Debit Card Fee

By Gail Cunningham, NFCC Vice President of Membership & Public Relations

NFCC Advises Consumers to Talk Before They Walk

The October online poll conducted by the NFCC revealed that only three percent of more than 2,400 respondents would continue using their current debit card as usual if a fee were imposed.

“People have become very aware of how they spend their money, even small amounts, and that’s a good thing,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC.  “The poll results send a strong message, but at this point that message remains a sentiment.  Only time will tell if people will follow through and actually change long-ingrained habits.”

As financial institutions evaluate their options, consumers should do the same and be prepared for any changes that might impact their accounts.  The NFCC offers the following pros and cons of financial decisions based on the poll results:

Find a bank that doesn’t charge debit card fees  = 62 percent

Pro – Keeps the availability of a debit card while avoiding fees.

Con – Changing financial institutions is difficult, particularly if you have direct deposits or drafts associated with your checking account.  If you elect to change, don’t close the old account until three months after you open the new one, thus allowing time for all transfers to be in place.  Check out the convenience of that bank’s ATM machines and usage fees, along with the cost of new checks.

Begin paying with cash = 22 percent

Pro – Controls spending, as you can’t spend beyond what you have.

Con – Carrying large amounts of cash can be dangerous and inconvenient.

Begin paying for purchases by check = 8 percent

Pro – Maximizes the use of the existing checking account which may already have a fee associated with it.

Con – Using checks can be inconvenient, with some places not accepting that form of payment.  Additionally, there is the chance of over-drafting the account and incurring penalties.

Begin charging purchases = 5 percent

Pro – Charging creates a credit file and resulting credit score.  If handled responsibly, this can work in a person’s favor for future financial needs.

Con – Credit makes overspending easy.  If not handled properly, charging goods and services can result in financial disaster.

Keep using my debit card as usual = 3 percent

Pro – Avoids the potential hassle of changing banks.

Con – Adds a new fee per the terms of the financial institution.

“As with any financial decision, consumers need to do their homework and evaluate all options to determine which is best for their lifestyle,” continued Cunningham.  “The bottom line is that banks have the right to assess fees, and consumers have the right to choose who they do business with.  Before leaving, however, consumers should ask the bank to waive the fee, citing how long they’ve been a customer, how many bank products they are using, and associated balances.  No one wants to lose a valuable customer, so be sure to talk before you walk.”

For professional assistance regarding your financial questions, consider an appointment with a certified consumer credit counselor at an NFCC Member Agency.  To be automatically connected to the Agency closest to you, dial (800) 388-2227, or to locate a counselor online go to www.DebtAdvice.org.  For assistance in Spanish, dial (800) 682-9832.

The October poll question and results are as follows:

If my bank were to impose a fee related to debit card use, I would…

A. Keep using my debit card as usual = 3%

B. Find a bank that doesn’t charge debit card fees = 62%

C. Begin paying for purchases with cash = 22%

D. Begin paying for purchases by check = 8%

E. Begin charging my purchases = 5%

Note: The NFCC’s October Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC Web site (www.DebtAdvice.org) from October 1 – 31, 2011 and was answered by 2,404 individuals.

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