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Molly Katchpole Started An Online Petition Which 300,000 People Signed

5:47 PM, Nov 2, 2011   |    comments
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Molly Katchpole, of Washington, D.C., is 22, working two part-time jobs, and living paycheck-to-paycheck.

She didn't need another fee on her bank account.

So shortly after her bank, Bank of America, announced last month that it was imposing a $5 fee for making as little as one debit card purchase per month, she took to the Internet in protest.

"It just kind of really bothered me," Katchpole said on "The CBS Early Show." "I knew that other people would feel the same way. So I went to Change.org, I started the petition, and I knew it would catch fire, and it did."

The petition garnered 306,000 signatures. Bank of America and several other banks announced this week their plans for debit card fees are now dead. Many are now crediting Katchpole with the victory.  

Katchpole's petition page now sports a "How We Won" letter to the site's visitors, saying, "Hundreds of thousands of consumers joined the movement to push Bank of America, and its competitors, to eliminate its $5 debit card fee. In less than one month, Bank of America went from announcing the fee, to reeling under huge pressure from the media, Congress and Change.org. When Bank of America announced that it was restructuring the fee, (Katchpole) and others continued to push the bank until it agreed to end the fee for all customers."

When Katchpole started the petition, she says, she expected a lot of response, but she didn't realize how instantaneous and wide-ranging it would be. She said, "It grew so quickly I almost couldn't keep up with it. And I wasn't expecting this and victory, it's resolved. I am excited about it, obviously."

Since the petition effort began, Katchpole has moved her accounts to a community bank and intends to stay there. However, she says she was contacted by Bank of America during the petition effort. She says the bank tried to explain the fee. "They said they were doing it because they were trying to be more transparent with their fees which, you know, I understand, but it doesn't really explain this new fee," she said. "It's not like this fee had been lurking in the background of your bank account and, all of a sudden, they were telling you about it."

Katchpole said the bank didn't seem to care about her difficult financial situation. "I felt like they didn't take those stories (of hardship) into account when they announced the fee," she said.

However, CBS News business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis noted that the company did pay attention to her when she took to the Internet and found support with some political and entertainment heavyweights, such as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and funnyman Jay Leno.

Dick Durban: Bank of America decision a win for consumers

David Darnell, co-chief operating officer of Bank of America, released this statement: "We have listened to our customers very closely over the last few weeks and recognize their concern with our proposed debit usage fee. Our customers' voices are most important to us. As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so."

Jarvis remarked, "They say in their statement that they listened -- that's the politically correct thing to say. 'We listened to to our customers and there will not be a fee in the future,' that's according to Bank of America."

However, Jarvis says that the fee will likely appear in one form or another with the banks.

"It's probably going to happen in another place. Maybe not in the $5 level. When you see that fee, it's transparent. You see it completely. When you get nickled and dimed here and there, that is what usually happens. That's probably what will happen more in the future."

Jarvis added Bank of America is one of the last banks to reverse its debit card decision. She said Suntrust, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Regions have all rescinded their debit card fee plans.

Jarvis recommends looking for a community bank or credit union to better avoid fees and receive incentives.

She said, "People who want all of these things for free, check with a community bank, check with credit unions because they are often the place that still offer them."

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