Would you be angry if you had to pay a big Wall Street bank a fee before you could get the money that you worked so hard to earn? Unfortunately, that is exactly the situation that millions of American workers find themselves in today. An increasing number of U.S. companies are paying their workers using payroll cards that are issued by large financial institutions. Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Walgreens and Taco Bell are just some of the well known employers that are doing this. Today, there are 4.6 million active payroll cards in the United States, and some of the largest banks in the country are issuing them. The list includes JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup. The big problem with these cards is that there is often a fee for just about everything that you do with them. Do you want to use an ATM machine? You must pay a fee. Do you want to check your balance? You must pay a fee. Do you want a paper statement? You must pay a fee. Did you lose your card? You must pay a big fee. Has your card been inactive for a while? You must pay a huge fee. The big Wall Street banks are systematically extracting enormous fees from the working poor, and someone needs to do something to stop this.
The truth is that most American families need every penny that they earn. In America today, 53 percent of all workers make less than $30,000 a year.
It is hard to do everything that you need to do on less than $2,500 a month. If you doubt this, you should try it some time.
That is one reason why the fees that the big Wall Street banks hit payroll card users with are so insidious. The following is a short excerpt from a recent CNBC article about this phenomenon...
But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.'s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.
These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators.
Devonte Yates, 21, who earns $7.25 an hour working a drive-through station at a McDonald's in Milwaukee, says he spends $40 to $50 a month on fees associated with his JPMorgan Chase payroll card.
If you are just barely scraping by every month, can you really afford to be paying $50 a month in fees to the fatcats at JPMorgan Chase?
Of course not.
But JPMorgan Chase is far from alone. Just check out all of the fees that another large financial institution is hitting users with...
On some of its payroll cards, NetSpend charges $2.25 for out-of-network A.T.M. withdrawals, 50 cents for balance inquiries via a representative, 50 cents for a purchase using the card, $5 for statement reprints, $10 to close an account, $25 for a balance-protection program and $7.50 after 60 days of inactivity, according to an April presentation by the company reviewed by The Times.
They are taking advantage of extremely vulnerable people and they know it.
And we see this kind of thing happening with other types of cards as well. For example, in some states unemployment benefits are now deposited on prepaid debit cards, and the banks that issue these cards are more than happy to extract huge fees from unemployed people...
Shawana Busby does not seem like the sort of customer who would be at the center of a major bank's business plan. Out of work for much of the last three years, she depends upon a $264-a-week unemployment check from the state of South Carolina. But the state has contracted with Bank of America to administer its unemployment benefits, and Busby has frequently found herself incurring bank fees to get her money.
To withdraw her benefits, Busby, 33, uses a Bank of America prepaid debit card on which the state deposits her funds. She could visit a Bank of America ATM free of charge. But this small community in the state's rural center, her hometown, does not have a Bank of America branch. Neither do the surrounding towns where she drops off her kids at school and attends church.
She could drive north to Columbia, the state capital, and use a Bank of America ATM there. But that entails a 50 mile drive, cutting into her gas budget. So Busby visits the ATMs in her area and begrudgingly accepts the fees, which reach as high as five dollars per transaction. She estimates that she has paid at least $350 in fees to tap her unemployment benefits.
There is something that is so greedy about all of this.
When the financial crisis hit back in 2008, the big banks had no problem begging the entire nation for mercy.
But when it comes time to show mercy to the poor, they tell us that it is "just business".
In America today, there are tens of millions of families that are just barely surviving from month to month. The big banks should not be preying on them like this.
With each passing year, the ranks of the working poor in this country continue to get larger. The following statistics are from one of my previous articles entitled "35 Statistics About The Working Poor In America That Will Blow Your Mind"...
#1 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either "poor" or "low income".
#2 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 57 percent of all American children live in a home that is either "poor" or "low income".
#3 Back in 2007, about 28 percent of all working families were considered to be among "the working poor". Today, that number is up to 32 percent even though our politicians tell us that the economy is supposedly recovering.
#5 In Arkansas, Mississippi and New Mexico, more than 40 percent all of working families are considered to be "low income".
#6 Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.
#7 Half of all American workers earn $505 or less per week.
#8 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.
#9 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.
#10 Median household income in the United States has fallen for four consecutive years.
#11 Median household income for families with children dropped by a whopping $6,300 between 2001 and 2011.
#12 The U.S. economy continues to trade good paying jobs for low paying jobs. 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.
#14 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.
#15 There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing. That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.
#18 According to one survey, 77 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time.
#19 Millions of working poor families in America end up taking on debt in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, but before too long they find themselves in a debt trap that they can never escape. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the average debt burden for U.S. households that earn $20,000 a year or less "more than doubled to $26,000 between 2001 and 2010".
You can find the rest of the list right here.
The working poor simply cannot afford to be paying hundreds of dollars in fees to the big banks each year just to use the money that they worked so very hard to earn.
Unfortunately, we seem to be living during a time when the big financial institutions will squeeze every nickel that they possibly can out of average Americans no matter how high the human cost is.