For Bank Of America, Debit Fees Extend To Unemployment Benefits

Another reason to hate BOA:

CORDOVA, S.C.– 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.


  1. Here in the UK, bank ATMs are mostly free to use for all. Banks figure that if they let customers of other banks use their ATMs, their customers can use the ATMs of other banks so it all works out even. There are commercial cash machines in convenience stores, etc., which take a cut, but they are very easy to avoid.

    Could this woman not somehow just transfer the money from BoA to an account in a local bank for free, perhaps using her card at the bank counter? Or at worst pay a single ATM fee to withdraw the whole lot and put it into a (free?) local bank account?

    I hate those fees to get at your own money.

    1. I have good news for Ms Busby! Instead of driving all the way up to Columbia to get to an ATM, I see that the Bank of America website lists four ATMs in Orangeburg, SC–only 5 miles away from Cordova. The closest appears to be at the BiLo on Riverside Dr in Orangeburg. Alternatively, if she wishes to avoid the arduous 4.5 mile trip to Orangeburg, Ms Busby could avoid those nasty fees by doing what I usually do: taking cash back when at the grocery store paying by debit card. One wonders why she has been paying $5 per transaction when she can get it during her normal trip to the grocery store for free.

  2. I made a video protest recently for my blog. It is quite funny even if you are pro-megabank. I called my credit card’s customer service line to do some negotiating. Having a bit of leverage, I thought it presented a great opportunity to mess with them a little and make a few points about the unfairness of the credit card lending system. Since it’s a protest at home, I called it my kitchen counterstrike against Bank of America. I think you might enjoy it.

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