11/30/2011 - The big banks canceled plans for new debit card fees after their customers rebelled and members of Congress objected. But if Americans think their debit card problems are over, they’re wrong.
A 2009 law shields consumers from the worst predations of the credit card companies. It requires card issuers to give a 45-day notice before raising interest rates, says late charges and other penalties must be “reasonable and proportional” and that the companies clearly show late fees and other facts, such as how long it would take to pay off a balance if less than the full amount is remitted. Debit card and checking customers need similar protections.
In a report on safe checking earlier this year, The Pew Charitable Trusts found that the 10 largest banks reserved the right to reorder debit card transactions and process the largest withdrawals first. That will drain an account more quickly and could generate multiple overdraft charges. The group said four of those banks have dropped reordering for some kinds of transactions, but it said that the banks had retained “the right to change their account terms and conditions — including transaction posting order — at any time, for any reason.”
Read the full editorial, Some Thoughts for the Shopping Season, on the New York Times' Web site.