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Candice Choi

Bank to charge for lost debit cards

Bank of America says the fee will be waived if the debit card is stolen. Bank of America says the fee will be waived if the debit card is stolen. (Robert Caplin/Bloomberg News)
By Candice Choi
June 25, 2011

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As if losing your debit card isn’t headache enough. It may soon cost you $5 as well.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, the nation’s largest bank, said it plans to start charging customers $5 to replace lost debit cards.

It’s just the latest unwelcome news for consumers who have seen banks introduce a steady stream of new and higher fees over the past year.

Bank of America says the fee, which goes into effect in September, will be waived if the card is stolen. For overnight delivery of a card, the fee will be $20. There is currently no charge for either service.

But the new replacement fee isn’t that unusual in the industry. New York-based Chase, for example, also charges a $5 fee to replace lost cards.

Checking account customers should be getting accustomed to such unwelcome news. Last year the availability of free checking accounts with no strings attached shrank for the first time since 2003. Only 65 percent of checking accounts were free, down from 76 percent in 2009, according to Bankrate.com.

One reason for the fees is that banks are contending with new regulations that will sharply reduce their revenue from checking accounts.

The Federal Reserve on July 21 is set to cap the swipe fees, or interchange, banks can collect from merchants whenever customers use their debit cards at a flat 12 cents, replacing a formula that averages 1 percent of the purchase.

The cap must be in place to comply with the Dodd-Frank legislation that overhauled the financial industry last year. Credit card interchange fees, which average about 2 percent, remain untouched.