More banks ending debit card rewards

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo and other banks are ending debit rewards programs as financial reform efforts are eating into their bottom line. Photo Credit: MoneyBlogNewz/

The costs of financial reform are adding up as a potential curb on interchange fees is causing banks to cancel debit card reward programs. Financial reform legislation has caused ripple effects, and the effort to legislate fairer conditions for consumers is leading to more restrictive conditions for consumers. Lawmakers are beginning to balk at the high cost of such laws.

Interchange fee cap may deprive consumers in effort to protect them

The proposed cap on interchange fees or “swipe fees,” which merchants must pay banks to complete debit card transactions, has already led to major banks trying to save money any way possible. Free checking programs and debit card rewards have landed on the chopping block. JP Morgan Chase ended its debit card rewards program and more are following suit, according to CNN. Wells Fargo subsidiary Wachovia has stopped offering debit rewards to new customers, and Wells Fargo will do likewise on April 15. Citibank recently disclosed that the bank is “in the process of evaluating potential changes,” which means it is likely going to cut debit rewards programs for customers as well.

Costs of financial reform adding up

A recent estimate by the Government Accountability Office placed a price tag of $1 billion per year on the Dodd Frank Act, or the financial reform bill, according to USA Today. The creation of a totally new agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has already caused controversy and infighting among lawmakers. The GAO estimated that federal agencies would need to hire more than 2,000 people to enforce the laws, including any the CFPB would be enforcing. Congressional Republicans have been openly critical of the agency, which some assert has too much authority. The special adviser to the president in charge of setting up the agency, Elizabeth Warren, has defended the agency, saying that the “Wall Street behemoths” that created the need for the agency should be targets, not the CFPB, according to Bloomberg. The agency will have oversight of consumer financial products from personal loans to credit cards, when it starts operations later this year.

Consumers may end up not using credit at all

The aim of financial reform laws is to prohibit trickery by financial institutions and make the use of credit safer for consumers. That is a noble aim, but it seems to be having a chilling effect on financial institutions. Debit card rewards and free checking are falling by the wayside, but banks cannot impose fees with impunity. Loan credit is likely to get tighter, though that also means banks and lenders cannot gouge customers out of the blue. However, the debate is going to be whether the loss of convenience is worth it.



USA Today


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