People leaving banks because of new fees

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — Within weeks of each other, Mississippi’s two biggest banks have imposed new fees to make up revenue lost under new regulations.

Some customers are looking for new banks or already have switched, The Clarion-Ledger (http://bit.ly/norX8E) reported.

Regions Bank says it will charge $4 a month for using some debit cards at stores. Trustmark National Bank said it won’t charge for debit card use — at least now, though it wouldn’t rule it out forever — but will charge some checking accounts $5 a month, starting Nov. 1.

Laurie Lewis of Brandon is rerouting money from Regions to BankPlus, which boasts no checking or debit fees. She says she’s leaving just enough at Regions to cover automatic loan and bill payments — and will close that account if the bank starts charging for electronic bill payments.

“It’s the principle of the thing, ” she said. “(Four dollars) is not a lot of money, but it’s not what I agreed to when I opened the account.”

Regions Bank, based in Birmingham, Ala., has 15 percent of Mississippi’s market share. Jackson-based Trustmark controls about 13 percent of the state market.

Institutions like BankPlus, First M&F Bank and Hope Credit Union have reported an uptick in new accounts in recent weeks, believed to be the result of the new fees.

“We’ve had people say they’re unhappy with their bank, certain ones in particular, and we obviously know why,” said Blake Chance, manager of the First M&F branch in Flowood.

First M&F, based in Kosciusko, boasts free debit cards and checking accounts at its branches and on its website. Chance noted the bank’s interest-bearing Summit Checking account, which refunds ATM fees up to $25.

“So in a sense, we’re rewarding you for using your debit card,” Chance said.