The big banks are in the doghouse again. Over the last couple of years, there has been constant discussion about the big banks' inability to serve middle class and low income Americans at a reasonable rate.
I'm talking, of course, about recent news that Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citibank have all embraced the growing trend toward charging customers a fee for using their checking accounts and debit cards for everyday spending. For example, Bank of America is going to charge debit card users $5 a month to make a transaction using their debit card. That is on TOP of the $12 monthly fee customers might pay if their average account balance falls under $1,500. It's obvious that the new bank model does not work for middle to lower-income people or those who live from paycheck to paycheck.
Look, banks are not inherently evil. They simply don't have the infrastructure or the cost structure that's required to serve the middle class. Their model is old and they can no longer afford to serve the middle class. Their overhead and branch infrastructure simply make it impractical for them to serve this customer set at a price that these customers can afford. Their problem is compounded by recent regulatory changes that have reduced the fee revenue they collect from merchants every time a customer makes a credit or debit card purchase. They've chosen to replace that revenue -- and maintain their old infrastructure -- by jacking up the debit card and checking account fees charged to those who can least afford such increases.
Using RushCard members as an example, in September, 97.5 percent of active RushCard members had average daily balances below $1,500 and made at least one non-ATM spend transaction. This means almost all of our card members would be paying both the BofA checking account fee and the debit card fee, in addition to any insufficient funds fee they sometimes incur for account overdrafts.
According to research conducted by Raddon Financial Group, 72 percent of all households indicate that their household's primary checking account balance falls below $1,000 during the course of a typical month. Yet, Citibank will now require a minimum account balance of $6,000 to avoid a $15.00 per month fee! Consumers need to be aware that there will never again be such a thing as free checking -- not that there truly ever was.
This is exactly why I entered the prepaid business over seven years ago with the RushCard. We do not sucker punch customers with fees that seem to increase all the time. Yes, the RushCard has fees, but we do not charge punitive overdraft fees and our members cannot go into debt. Our fees are transparent and all are posted and easily accessible at www.rushcard.com. The RushCard continues to find ways to provide services that empower people to take control of their money on their terms.
We understand prepaid card users. We offer a wide range of basic financial services to the more than 60 million Americans who can't get access to a traditional banking relationship. More and more, people are turning to prepaid because they don't want a relationship with a bank, and the news about debit card fees shows us why! Prepaid is for EVERYONE.
Our business is growing because we offer card-to-card funds transfers, regular tips on how to save money by using a RushCard, free direct deposit of funds onto the card, and online money management tools to help our members manage their budget. Most importantly, utilizing new technologies such as iPhone and Android apps gives us the ability to keep our fees reasonable.
I invite anyone to compare our fees to traditional banks, payday loan stores, and others. RushCard members are smart with their money, and we will continue to help them maintain freedom from big banks that clearly demonstrate that they can't afford to manage and don't want their business anyway! I welcome and encourage the millions of Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo debit cardholders to join the RushCard revolution. To them, I say "move your money now!"
Follow Russell Simmons on Twitter: www.twitter.com/unclerush