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Wells Fargo Debit-Fee Test Could Affect Wallets Everywhere

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Well Fargo Bank (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Debit or credit, it’s become a way of life for many of us.

But now some banks want you to pay for the privilege to use the plastic.

Wells Fargo becomes the first bank to test-pilot a $3 monthly fee in five states. Illinois is not one of the test states, but consumers here are still reacting to a trend that experts say may sweep the banking industry.

Wells Fargo calls the new charge an “activity fee” that will cover all purchases — whether the customer says debit or credit or whether the customer uses the card 30 times a month or just once.

Cheryl Govia of Chicago uses her debit card every day, several times a day. She is not thrilled at the prospect of paying a fee.

“It’s unacceptable because the banks get enough money off of you, anyway,” she tells CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker.

Govia does not have a Wells Fargo debit card, but she fears that her bank will follow its lead. Experts agree.

“All banks will have their eyes on Wells Fargo — how much revenue is raised, what kind of fallout there is,” says Bill Hardekopf, CEO of lowCards.com.

It’s about offsetting lost revenues. The banks are expected to lose about $8 billion this fall when new regulations reduces the amount they get from retailers, from 44 cents a swipe to 21 cents.

Hardekopf says banks may also try to charge customers a monthly fee for checking accounts or raise rates on APRs on credit cards.

The fee on debit cards does not apply when you use it at the cash station. That’s one option consumers say they would consider, if their bank starts charging for purchases.

“I would start carrying more cash and using the debit card less,” Govia says.

Hardekopf says consumers have every right to switch banks.

Wells Fargo will start charging Oct. 14. If your bank decides to follow suit, experts say the announcement may be buried in fine print, so read everything.

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