Another Bank Charges Customers For Being Poor

(America) Starting this summer, some of SunTrust's least wealthy customers, even if students, will have to pay higher fees on everything from ATM withdrawals to checking accounts, the bank confirmed on Wednesday.

The changes in fees affect primarily Everyday Checking, Student Checking and Solid Choice account holders. The first two accounts are targeted at customers who maintain lower balances.

The changes, scheduled to begin Aug. 24, will raise the minimum daily balance a customer is required to keep in an Everyday Checking account, from $500 to $1,500, to avoid a $7 monthly service fee. Holders of those accounts will also pay more in overdraft fees: they'll fork out $36 per overdraft across the board, instead of $25 for the first one and $36 for subsequent items. Everyday Checking account holders will also lose the perk of being allowed one overdraft a year without a fine.

Customers with other accounts, including Student Checking and Solid Choice Checking ones, will lose another benefit: ATM fee reimbursements for transactions at non-SunTrust Banks.

The pricing changes reflect the costs of doing business and staying competitive with other banks, as well as balancing the needs of its customers, SunTrust spokesman Hugh Suhr stated in an email.

Last year, SunTrust, which has 1,651 branches in the Southeast America and is based in Atlanta, stopped offering free checking. After SunTrust imposed a fee for use of its debit cards, the company rescinded it in the wake of consumer fury surrounding Bank of America's attempt to charge $5 monthly for debit card use.

SunTrust is hardly the only bank this year to make major changes to its fee structure. Wells Fargo has said it is completely phasing out free checking this summer. U.S. Bank said in May that it will hike overdrafts fees to $35 from $33. In April, the cost for a checking account at Citizens Bank doubled.

In addition to imposing higher fees on existing services, banks have also been experimenting with offering new products. JPMorgan Chase is debuting a prepaid card this summer that will cost $4.95 per month -- a product that Chase has said it wants to present as an alternative to a checking account. Other banks have expanded into offering services like short-term payday-like loans.    


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