Bank of America may get the last laugh

September 30, 2011: 1:25 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- In the immediate aftermath of Bank of America's new debit card fee announcement, many of the bank's customers have declared this is the last straw.

But while angry consumers are threatening to leave, it's the bank that could have the last laugh.

Across social media sites like Twitter, consumers directed a flood of negativity toward the bank. "Dear Bank of America, I am not going to stick around for the $5 a month, I want a divorce!" wrote one customer. "If you charge me $5 a month just to have a debit card. I'm closing my accounts," declared another.

"Savvy consumers are not going to take this sitting down," said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. Most will either switch to using credit cards or find another financial institution that doesn't charge a fee, he said. In fact, 64% of Americans said they would consider switching banks if their fees increased, according to a recent Bankrate survey.

However, changing banks is no easy task, noted Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com. There's the hassle of going down to the bank, having checks printed, not to mention switching all of your automatic payments, he said.

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Despite threats to leave the bank, it is more likely that consumers will simply switch back to credit, he said -- a boon for the very bank that ticked off those consumers in the first place.

Even though debit cards have been rapidly replacing credit cards as the preferred payment method over the last few years, debit card fees are suddenly making credit attractive again, and that means a rise in credit card debt is likely to follow.

"We're doing our best to explain the impact and how they can avoid the fee," responded Bank of America spokeswoman Ann Pace. "They can continue to use the ATM and there's no fee associated with credit cards."

That's where banks stand to benefit.

"Banks are not only making money on the debit card fees but also pushing people to use their credit cards where banks make a heck of a lot more money down the road," Hardekopf said.

Blame the new rules that limit how much revenue banks can get from the swipe fees they collect from merchants, added Ken Clayton, senior vice president and general counsel for the American Bankers Association.

"The Durbin Amendment drives markets away from offering low-cost debit choices," said Clayton, "making other payment options like credit cards more attractive to consumers."  To top of page

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