Today’s cuppa: PG Tips tea

Gerri-Willis-BofA.jpgAt the end of September, Fox Business Network anchor Gerri Willis responded to Bank of America’s announcement that it would be adding a $5 for debit-card users by cutting up her own card on air. Click here for a story and video on that.

But the host of the daily “The Willis Report” also said that she would dance a jig if BofA reversed course, and with the banking giant’s announcement that — pressured by angry customers — it had changed its mind on the fee, Willis did just that yesterday. Click here to have a look.

Willis also took a few minutes to answer some questions from HCTV on what bank customers should be thinking about the eternal question posed by the Clash, “Should I stay or should I go?”

(questions in bold)

Q: Bank of America has pulled back on charging the $5 debit-card fee,
apparently under pressure from customers and other banks that decided to pass on such a fee.
Do you think BofA can recover from the PR hit?

A: It’s a huge PR hit – and now consumer advocates will be watching
relentlessly for any other fee hikes from the company. This bank needs to
connect with its customers in a personal way, instead of coming off as a faceless
monolith more concerned about profits than customer relationships.

Q: Something like the threat of a fee can make people consider changing
banks. What should people know – and what homework should they do – before
deciding to switch?

A: First off, you need to understand that switching banks takes on
average three months to do. So, don’t make the decision lightly. Top items to
check out: the size of the ATM network – this is especially critical for
travelers; checking account fees, online offerings (i.e. can you bank online,
pay bills online, etc.)

Q: Are there any banks about which you have concerns?

A: Right now, Citibank has been making a lot of noise about the fact
that they never even tested a debit card fee, but they have raised fees on
their checking accounts. Starting in December, customers who hold mid-level
accounts will be charged $20 a month if they fail to maintain a minimum balance
of $15,000 in their combined accounts. Previously, account holders had to carry
a minimum balance of $6,000.

Q: What good alternatives exist to traditional banks if people wish to
go that way?

A: The good news is that in almost every part of the country there are
options. Check out local small and regional banks. Credit unions are another
good idea – they can often offer lower rates and better terms than banks.

Q: That wasn’t much of a jig. What financial event would make you happy
enough to do a full-on dance?

A: What?!? I thought that was FANTASTIC!!