Free debit cards become fee debit cards

Many Historic City News readers in St. Augustine carry a debit card instead of cash and find it more convenient to use for payment than a personal check — for Bank of America customers, and those at some other area banks, that convenience is going to come at a price.

Bank of America is the largest bank in Northeast Florida as ranked by deposits, with close to 50 percent of the deposits in the region. In St. Augustine, the main office across Cordova Street from Flagler College, dates back to the days when it was known as “St. Augustine National Bank”.

After many years as a correspondent bank, St. Augustine National Bank was acquired by Jacksonville banking giant, Barnett Banks of Florida. When Barnett Banks sold their Florida banks to NationsBank in Charlotte, NC, they began to issue the “debit card” as an alternative to those who wanted the convenience of a credit card with easier qualifications; since the available credit was linked to the holders deposit account balance.

The NationsBank signs were replaced after the Bank of America merger in 1997.

B of A announced it would begin charging a $5 monthly fee to debit cardholders who use the card to make purchases. “It doesn’t matter if you make one purchase or 10, the charge is the same,” according to an announcement from the bank.

The bank also said that it would not matter if you select “debit” or “credit” when you make a purchase using the debit card — all purchases using a debit card account will trigger the monthly fee.

Some premium account holders will not be charged a monthly fee for debit card use; likewise, the bank says the fees do not apply to purchases by BankAmericard credit card holders when they use those VISA or MasterCard accounts.

Look for the new, added fee to take hold early next year.

The decision to add the fee was prompted, in part, by a new federal regulation that kicks in on October 1st, limiting the transaction fee banks charge merchants every time a debit card is swiped.

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