Citibank has raised its fees for re-ordering consumer checks by 19%, to $24.95 an order from the $20.95 they were charging in September 2010.
I called to reorder checks, and when the representative said it would be $24.95, I asked if it was a price increase. He claimed he didn't know. I asked if he could check. He put me on hold and said he couldn't see the last time I ordered checks so he couldn't tell. After I got off the phone I looked it up myself on an old statement.
Like the $20-a-month fee to have a checking account at Citi with a balance of less than $6,000 and the 33% increase in fees for the use of non-Citibank ATMs that were reported here earlier, this is just another example of how, far from protecting consumers, President Obama's credit card reform law and Dodd-Frank financial reform are hurting consumers. At least with the account fees, customers got some notice, as opposed to the check re-order, which the bank didn't even acknowledge had increased.
Where's Elizabeth Warren when you need her?
I asked if Citi had any accounts with free checks and was told a $50,000 balance was needed to qualify for one of those.
I understand it's a free market and Citibank has the right to charge customers whatever they can. I, likewise, am free to take my business elsewhere, which at some point I probably will, though the switching costs are annoying in terms of time and hassle. Maybe if Citi had been charging fees this hefty all along they'd have been more profitable and not have needed a taxpayer rescue/takeover.
Even understanding all that, though, as a consumer, it's galling that the effect of all these new regulations supposedly fixing consumer banking is sharply higher prices for me as a bank customer. Maybe this is a better way for banks to make money than by issuing subprime mortgages or by imposing overdraft fees on debit card purchases. But as someone who didn't take out a subprime mortgage or overdraw my debit card, I'm not happy that the bank revenues to replace those shenanigans should have to come out of my bank account.
What's happening at Citibank as a result of these changes is that it seems to me it has pretty much decided to be a bank that focuses on rich people. Again, that may be a wise business strategy for Citi; I have nothing against rich people and aspire to become one. But it's a bit strange that the result of a bank overhaul engineered by a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress claiming to stand up for the little guy is that a big bank recently rescued at taxpayer expense has decided to raise fees sharply on its non-rich customers.