Fleet/Boston Merger to Up Fees for StudentsBy Thomas Lin
If you use BankBoston or Fleet, you will experience changes in banking in the near future. Last October’s merger between Fleet Financial Group and BankBoston Corporation to form FleetBoston Financial takes effect on Friday, May 12.
“You won’t have to do a thing to prepare for the transition to Fleet ...” begins an information sheet mailed by BankBoston. Fleet and BankBoston both mailed information sheets to inform customers of banking changes and assure them that all is well.
Despite such efforts to assure customers, some remain concerned. Though he was not sure of specifics, Dustin Muniz ’03 said “I hear people talking about extra fees.” Not only will account fees change, but so will account types and credit card numbers.
“They’ve sent me mailings, but I don’t think they’ve kept me very well informed of the changes,” said Adrian L. Morgan ’00, a Fleet customer.
So what exactly are the changes?
Checking fee differences
“Most students who have accounts with us have the BankBoston student package, which is a savings and checking account. Fleet has their own student self-service account, which is just a checking account. Your account gets automatically switched over,” said a BankBoston customer relations representative.
“The major changes will probably just be the fee. BankBoston used to be $4 a month or $7 if they used tellers. With the students with Fleet, it will be $5 a month, or $3 if they have direct deposit,” the representative said.
When asked about extra fees for using tellers, the representative said “Well, if students use tellers for something they could have done on their own, like withdrawing $20, then there will be a $2 transaction fee each time.”
Fleet will also charge this $2 transaction fee for each account inquiry or transaction made over the phone. BankBoston had offered phone support and phone transactions for free.
FleetBoston will adopt the existing Fleet banking system. Current Fleet accounts will remain the same. BankBoston information sheets say that current BankBoston accounts will “transfer to the Fleet accounts that are most similar to existing BankBoston accounts.”
A concern is that Fleet accounts are more business oriented and less personal than their BankBoston counterparts. “Fleet is primarily business oriented, at least it appears so from their website” said Ali Jiwani ’03.
A sophomore BankBoston customer said “Fleet costs too much money. I’m not paying that shit. I’m going to change bank providers. I don’t like Fleet,” and recalls receiving a letter saying that her monthly checking fee would rise to $12 a month.
Credit card changes
Some students are angry that the merger will cause their credit card and check card numbers to change. Fleet will be mailing new cards to replace the BankBoston ones.
“I don’t like it. I was used to knowing my credit card number, but now I have to learn a new credit card number. The thing is that if a company had my credit card number on file, then now I have to go change it” said Marcus Baynes ’00.
While card numbers will change, PIN numbers remain the same.
May 12 is the final conversion day for BankBoston in Eastern Massachusetts. If not earlier, all BankBoston customers should receive new Fleet cards by May 14, and current BankBoston credit cards and check cards will stop working on May 15.
New minimum balance
The Fleet student self-service account does not include a savings account. “If the customer had money in a BankBoston savings account, then on conversion day, it will become a separate Fleet savings account. Fees vary for the different kinds of savings account” said the BankBoston customer relations representative.
The default conversion for the BankBoston Companion savings account is the Fleet Basic Savings account. While the BankBoston savings account had no minimum balance, the new Fleet savings account will have a $1 monthly charge if the average daily balance is below $250.
Increased banking access
BankBoston only had branches in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut, but FleetBoston will have branches in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Florida. FleetBoston also has ATMs in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Fleet customers will now be able to use BankBoston ATMs on the MIT campus free of charge.
“The thing is that now, I can use my Fleet Card at the student center BankBoston ATM without paying the $1.50 fee that BankBoston used to charge. I used to avoid it because I had to pay the extra money” said Fleet customer Jacki Baskin ’00.
The monopoly feeling
The new FleetBoston Financial Corporation has some students thinking monopoly. “Only a Commie would have agreed to that merger!” said Terry Koo ’03.
“BankBoston is the most prominent bank here, so there isn’t much selection. Most of the ATMs along the infinite corridor are BankBoston, and BankBoston is in the student center.” said Lilian E. Chau ’03. “Fleet used to be BankBoston’s competition, so this is like a horizontal merger. It’s big, beefy banks taking advantage of college students.”
The Fleet ATM in the infinite corridor will be divested to Pennsylvania-based Sovereign Bancorp in order to meet regulatory requirements surrounding the Fleet-BankBoston merger. However, Fleet will be the dominant bank on campus after the acquisition.
Concerned about the possible monopoly, the Department of Justice ruled that the majority of existing Fleet branches in Massachusetts would have to be sold. This sale will occur on June 16th in eastern Massachusetts.