By Nancy Black
Eureka! I did it! I figured out how to make billions of dollars with one single swipe. You wanna know the secret? You charge a fee for doing nothing. Remember how the classic TV show “Seinfeld” was about “nothing”? Same goes for this fee. It’s for nothing. But, if you charge every debit card in the U.S. this fee just one time, you’d make approximately $13.625 BILLION dollars. Instantly.
I learned recently about my Shark Tank-worthy discovery the hard way. I had to pay a $2.50 fee at one of those random, non-bank automatic teller machines (ATMs). For some reason, while I was using a gas station’s ATM, I punched in the wrong passcode. Silly me. It’s not like I have 50 million passwords and codes and pin ID numbers to remember on any given day. But this day, I wasn’t paying attention and entered the wrong numbers. So, my transaction was declined. Fine. Understood. Take two. Reinsert card, enter correct PIN and proceed with transaction. Done.
It wasn’t until the next day that I saw on my bank statement two charges for $2.50 each for the “non-Chase ATM use.” I get that they charged me $2.50 for the transaction I was able to complete. But $2.50 for telling me I entered the wrong code? Now that is going too far.
“Oh, just blow it off,” I said to myself. “It’s not worth your time to go to the bank or, even worse, try to call the bank and explain to them the situation and ask for my $2.50 back. But, wait. What if everyone in the United States who got mistakenly charged a one-time, random fee of $2.50 just blew it off? The answer? The banks make almost 14 BILLION dollars. For doing nothing!*
It doesn’t seem fair. But, as I tell my children, “No one said life would be fair.” Now I’ll have to update that saying: “No one said life would be fair. And you’re probably gonna be charged a fee for it, too!”
*According to the Statistics Portal, the total number of debit cards in the United States in 2016 was approximately 5.45 billion. That number multiplied by the $2.50 “convenience fee” equals $13,625,000,000 (thirteen BILLION, six hundred twenty-five million)!