Big banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are now offering services to low income customers whom they previously shunned. B of A SafeBanking account and JPMorgan Chase prepaid debit card both cost $4.95 a month. The banks, their spokespersons say, will not be reaping profits with these products, but probably just break even. They have been so criticized as a result of the financial meltdown a few years ago, that for them it is a question of public relations, trying to rebuild their image, and more importantly to put themselves in a more favorable light and buy goodwill from regulators. Banks as we have recently been reminded are involved in cashing in on Inversion deals—deals intended to avoid paying U.S. taxes. In addition, their current practices, some analysts are telling us, places them—and us—at risk, for the same conditions that gave rise to the notion of and problems inherent in too big to fail, still exist. It would therefore seem that no matter how an observer looks at it, rightly or wrongly, bank policies are based on self interest.
Low income customers are prey to the pay lending industry and pay high fees for check cashing. There is a rather obvious need for services that is tailored to them. But that is not why the banks began these programs. They did so because ultimately it will benefit them, if indirectly and if not in actual dollars.
What happened to doing good? To doing something just because it was the right thing to do?