A day after the nation's biggest bank revealed it will charge customers who make purchases with debit cards, Sonoma County lenders said they had no intention of following suit.
Representatives of Redwood Credit Union, Exchange Bank, Summit State Bank and Bank of Marin said they had no plans to copy Bank of America's $5 monthly fee.
"It's just not something we want to do to our customers," said Tom Duryea, CEO of Summit State Bank. "I am not going to nickel-and-dime people over $5."
Their disinterest stands in contrast to other larger banks. Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan have been testing a $3 fee for debit card purchases, joining Bank of America.
The difference reflects a change in the regulatory landscape. This weekend, new federal limits cap how much large banks can charge merchants for processing payments made with debit cards.
As a result, the average "swipe fee" per transaction will drop from 44 cents to 24 cents, a 45 percent drop that is expected to cost banks billions in revenue.
But the regulations only apply to banks with more than $10 billion in assets, a threshold that, for example, is more than six times the size of Exchange Bank.
"The big banks got hit with this and the smaller institutions did not," said Brad Hunter, senior vice president with Exchange Bank. "They are trying to recoup lost revenues."
Still smaller banks are wary their swipe fees will eventually be reduced, too, as large box-store retailers push back against higher fees.
"Merchants are not going to accept two tiers of pricing," said Viveca Ware, senior vice president of regulatory policy for Independent Community Bankers of America. "It's just not sustainable."
For consumers, $5 a month isn't huge money — the toll on the Golden Gate Bridge is more, but the prospect of paying to use your own money has touched a nerve.
"People don't respond well to paying for things that used to be free, just like checking luggage or paying for food on an airplane," said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst with Bankrate.com.
The fee could be a boon for local banks and credit unions. Earlier this year, the website found that 64 percent of Americans would consider switching financial institutions if their checking fees increased.
But while savvy consumers will move their money or change habits to avoid the fee, many others will do neither, McBride said.
"There are plenty of American consumers who are sloppy in their finances," he said. "They either won't notice or if they do, they lack the motivation to do anything about it."
One way Bank of America consumers can avoid the fee is to use credit cards rather than debit cards, a switch which also provides additional consumer protections and the chance for cash-back rewards, said Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com.
Moving consumers to credit cards also benefits the banks, who can charge larger merchant fees while reaping late fees and interest on unpaid balances from the consumer.
"Every time we mess up with a credit card it's a lot more costly than messing up with a debit card," Hardekopf said.