Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. bank by assets, just finished switching all customers who used a free online-only checking account to to checking accounts that charge customers a $12 monthly fee if they don’t maintain a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or a monthly direct deposit of at least $250, The Wall Street Journal reports. The eBanking accounts were popular with freelancers and people with low incomes, and a petition protesting Bank of America’s shuttering of the accounts has drawn more than 45,000 signatures at Change.org.
Bank of America introduced the eBanking accounts in 2010 as a way to encourage customers to bank online; account holders were charged $8.95 a month only if they used a live bank teller for a routine transaction. It stopped offering the eBanking option to new customers in 2013 and began switching customers out of the accounts in 2015. “Banks have long grappled with how to charge customers for basic checking services,” the Journal notes. “The accounts are costly for banks to maintain, though they do bring in revenue through overdraft and other fees.”
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, who has led the bank since late 2009, has reduced the company’s consumer options and cut its branch network, pulling out of less-lucrative rural areas to focus on denser urban centers. Bank of America’s share price has risen in response.