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Smaller Banks Cashing In On Consumer Anger At Big Financial Institutions

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Bank of America debit card (CBS)

Bank of America debit card (CBS)

Dorothy Tucker Dorothy Tucker
Dorothy Tucker has served as a reporter for CBS 2 Chicago since 1984....
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CHICAGO (CBS) – “No Debit Card Fees.”

That’s the new marketing pitch from some community banks.

And yes, it is directly aimed at customers angry at the big banks, such as the Bank of America, which are tacking on a monthly $5 fee for debit card purchases.  

Big bank customers have made it clear that they are angry, and some say they are ready for a change.

“Something with free debit-card use is what I’d be looking for,” says Joe Bergamo, Bank of America customer.

“There’s an alternative to the big banks,” says Matthew Doubleday, senior vice president of marketing for Wintrust Community Banks.

Wintrust is a holding company that represents 14 community banks in the Chicago area.

Recently, the company placed a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune, offering customers a chance to win $60 and promising a debit card without fees.

“You can go to community banks for the same technology, flexible products that are tailored to the same need and actually have people who are nice to you,” Doubleday says.

Wintrust banks are among the more than 600 community banks in the state. Industry experts say most don’t charge fees for debit cards.

Why? Because many make their money on commercial and small business loans. Unlike the big banks, they don’t rely on fees.

Community banks also stress service, but what they don’t have a reputation for is lots of ATMs like the big banks.

“Taking money out would be harder to do at those banks,” says consumer Allie Setka.

But most community banks, like North Bank, belong to a national network offering customers free ATMs.

Officials at Bank of America acknowledge the increase competition from community banks.

They wouldn’t say if they were losing customers. But they argued that the bank offers “great distribution and many services including ATM’s and convenience.”

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