No Such Thing As Free Checking: The Next Wave?

| About: Wells Fargo (WFC)

This is a follow-up to my previous article about Bank of America testing new fees. Now Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) wants to charge more fees and eliminate free checking altogether. Wells Fargo wants customers with basic checking accounts to either maintain a minimum balance or direct deposit in order to avoid fees.

I am opposed to banks charging fees for basic checking, as a customer. In the short term, this may or may not be good for investors, but long term, what is bad for customers is bad for investors.

Banks need to think of new ways to cut costs, offer more features online like smartphone check image deposits, waived and reimbursed fees for using other ATMs. They might want to come up with mutual agreements to stop charging each other's customers fees for using ATMs, and then close unnecessary branches. You don't need branches at every corner if there is no reason to visit one. Become more efficient and stop bothering customers with new fees.

That is easier said than done, though. I'm guessing this is the new wave. The days of free checking are ending at big banks. Maybe some years from now when they stop getting new customers and existing ones are driven over the edge, they will come to the realization that giving people what they want is a good thing. Just like discount brokers eventually turned everyone into a discount broker, "discount banks" will turn everyone into a discount bank.

As a Wells Fargo customer, I am leaving. As a Wells Fargo investor, I'm staying for the time being, but maybe not for long.

Disclosure: I am long WFC.