Lawmakers want probe of debit card fees

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte and Bank of America are attached at the hip.

BofA is one of the city's biggest employers, and Charlotte, of course, is headquarters for the nation's largest bank.

They don't call us Banktown for nothing.

But BofA's recent decision to start charging customers five bucks a pop every month they use their debit card isn't going over too well, and customers are quick to share how they feel about it.

"I feel like they're making a whole lot of interest off of our money to begin with, so the fact that they're adding more and more fees on top of the interest charges that they're adding to our credit card's outrageous," says BofA customer AJ Williams. "Ridiculous."

It's not hard to understand why, then, Williams also felt satisfied when she heard the Justice Department could investigate big banks over their new debit card fees.

But in Charlotte we have a vested interest in the health of our big bank. So its important to ask...could a debit card investigation hurt BofA?

Well, if regulators find that banks worked together to raise debit rates, BofA could face fines, and it's already paying big time for its mortgage mistakes.

That's one reason why the bank says the new debit fees are necessary for it to remain profitable. But would losing them sink the ship? Hardly. BofA would probably just raise other rates. Doing that though, would anger its customers again.

And that might be the real danger right now.

"I will not do business with Bank of America," one customer told us as she stood in line at her new financial institution - Charlotte Metro Credit Union. "I'm not going to tolerate all the fees."

"I would definitely consider changing to a smaller bank," adds Williams.

This debit drama will take a while to play out. In the mean time, how can you avoid paying?

Pick a bank that doesn't charge for debits, like Ally.

Or you could go back to using credit cards.  But if you're trying to take a stand, experts say that might not be the best way.

"They get paid either way," explains financial expert Peter Dunn. "They get paid whether you use your debit card now or your credit card. And they'll make more money if you use your credit card and don't pay it off the way you should."