Magazine article American Banker

Fee Fight: BankBoston, Fleet Set $1 Limit to Avert a Ban

Magazine article American Banker

Fee Fight: BankBoston, Fleet Set $1 Limit to Avert a Ban

Article excerpt

BankBoston Corp. and Fleet Financial Group have pledged to cap fees at their Massachusetts ATMs at $1 for two years.

The agreement, announced last week, was meant to stave off state legislation to ban surcharges.

The two banks, operators of two-thirds of the automated teller machines in the Boston area, have lobbied steadfastly against such legislation. A bill to outlaw surcharges passed the state Senate 38 to 0 last November and has sat dormant in the House Ways and Means Committee ever since.

BankBoston plans to start surcharging in the fall. It is widely believed that Fleet will start surcharging, but the company has not said it will.

The Massachusetts Bankers Association sponsored the voluntary pledge and is encouraging other banks to sign on. BankBoston and Fleet sent letters about their participation to House leaders, attempting to seal their commitment to a free-market solution.

The voluntary cap would take effect Sept. 15. The banks would disclose the surcharges on ATM screens and waive fees for recipients of welfare and other entitlements through electronic benefits transfer.

The plan closely mirrors one by state Rep. Philip Travis, chairman of the House Banking Committee. Drafted as an alternative to the existing bill, it was never introduced.

The fee-cap agreement "makes a lot of sense," said BankBoston spokesman Bruce Spitzer. "We fully support it and endorse it. It's a sound approach in balancing competitive market principles with the concerns of community banks and individual consumers. …

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