by: Jeff Smith Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C.,None —
Bank of America confirmed that its employees will be exempt from a controversial new debit card fee.
The bank said that early next year, it will charge customers $5 a month if they use their debit cards to make purchases. The only people who won't have to pay that fee are premium account holders and bank employees.
Several customers said that it feels like the bank is out to nickel-and-dime ordinary customers.
Tim Martin said all Bank of America customers should suffer equally. "It should be fair treatment across the board, whether you're an employee or not," he said.
There are 280,000 Bank of America employees, and roughly 15,000 of them are located in Charlotte.
A bank spokeswoman said the company "decided to waive the fee as a reward to its employees."
She wouldn't say what percentage of employees are also customers.
Some customers said it makes sense. "I guess that's a benefit to being an employee -- a perk for them," said customer Marcus Wiley.
UNC Charlotte economics professor John Connaughton said banks generally give workers free checking accounts and preferred mortgage rates. He said the problem is Bank of America isn't fighting back against the growing public outrage.
"It's not uncommon for employees to get certain benefits when they bank with the company they work for," Connaughton said.
But he said the way the bank is handling the issue has created the problem. "They don't seem to be aware of the public perception," Connaughton said.
But customer Tim Martin isn't sympathetic to the bank's recent struggles. The bank has posted losses in three of the last five quarters and they are not generating profits for the shareholders.
"That's my fault? That's my fault? That's how I look at it," Martin said. "I shouldn't be paying for their mistakes. That's poor treatment of their customers, if you ask me."
Martin said the bank took billions in taxpayer bailout money, and he said enough is enough. He plans on switching his accounts to an online bank.
Bank of America took $45 billion in bailout money. It was returned in 2009.
Connaughton said the other banks that have recently started a debit card fee will likely exempt their own employees, too.
Eyewitness News left messages Thursday night with Citigroup, Chase, and Wells-Fargo, but none returned calls.