I suppose it was bound to happen. Banks say "Hey, we're going to lose a lot of money!" They get a big shot of money. Banks say "Hm, that was good, but we were making a lot more money when we were being irresponsible lenders, and we're going to have to make up for all the money lost because of these enforced ethics." So they look to their loyal customers, people to whom they promised free checking lo, these many years ago (13 for me, thanks BoA) and say, "We have this idea...how about you start paying us not just for new checks, not just the random fees that we've charged over the years, but for EACH MONTH that you spend your own money."
Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo are all hopping on the bandwagon with this monthly fee idea. $5 doesn't seem like a lot, but if you used your debit card every month, it would be $60 a year. As a person who holds on to her 6 year old phone because she can't afford a smartphone plan, yeah, I want to keep that $60. I'm looking into credit unions to see if they can offer me a better deal. It's going to be like Mary Poppins in here.
If there's no better solution, I've got to get really clever. I got used to dealing only in cash while I was in England, but that was because I got my pocket money in cash. Still, I hear that taking money out of an ATM doesn't trigger the monthly fee, so if you don't have to use your card, just take out a handful of cash. The problem is going to come when I have to buy textbooks. Then I'll have to do MATH to figure out if it will cost me at least $5 more to buy my books with cash at the bookstore rather than my so far pretty darn clever online tactics. And I HATE doing math. That means to save the most money, I may have to limit my debit card use to the three times a year that I have to buy textbooks. Nice thing is, once I've already triggered the debit card fee, in theory, I can use my debit card the rest of the month. Bad thing is, then I'll get into the habit and break it out when I'm supposed to be only using cash.
This post isn't all that coherent. I'll make an update when I find out the deal with credit unions. Meanwhile, enjoy some Ben Folds Five.