Don't Want A Debit Card? Key Bank Will Charge You $1 A Month

After hearing about Hannaford’s giant customer data breach yesterday, Brian decided to cancel the debit card he’d used there. That’s when he found out that Key Bank really wants you to have a debit card. In fact, they’ll charge you a small monthly fee to not have one linked to your “free checking” account. We figure that this means Key Bank makes about $12 a year more off of customers who have linked debit cards—and that if you want greater security on your account, it’s going to cost you.

Because of the recent data breech at Hannafords, I had to cancel my debit card, which I had used there recently. I had no problem canceling the debit card, but since I recently started charging my regular expenses on a rewards card and paying that off every month, I don’t have any real need for a debit card anymore. I spoke with the teller, Brandy, asking her to cancel my debit card and replace it with an ATM card. Since I was canceling the card because of potential fraud, there’s no charge there, but I then found out there is a monthly fee of $1 for not having a debit card with my checking account, which they refer to as Key Express Free Checking.

This struck me as odd that they charge extra for the privilege of not having something.

(Dollar background: Sami Keinänen)


Edit Your Comment

  1. humphrmi says:

    Take the debit card and shred it.

  2. Walrii says:

    @humphrmi: True, but card number will still be valid and linked directly to his bank account. Assuming its a VISA debit card, then if someone got that number they could go on a nice little shopping spree.

  3. humphrmi says:

    @Walrii: Then it’d be pretty easy to track down how his number got stolen, if he shredded it and never used it, eh?

  4. Buran says:

    @humphrmi: Not really. There’ve been cases where a card is used in fraud before the card is ever used. I cancelled my card entirely (and the card is currently sitting on something acting as a dust shield) because I didn’t even trust just throwing it out. I now only have an ATM card.

    I’d be cancelling my account at that bank and using another one since there’s lots of banks out there that don’t charge you for not having a card.

  5. sleze69 says:

    Not all banks do this. When I had my Wachovia dummy account to cash my old employer’s checks without paying their non-customer check-cashing fee, I refused to take a debit card.

    My advice is to change to a better bank.

  6. matto says:

    @humphrmi: uh. no?

  7. GoSpursGo says:


    How? They would need the security code on the back without physically having the card wouldn’t they?

  8. RIP MRHANDS says:

    @humphrmi: Credit/debig card numbers follow a known format, so its not impossible to generate sequences of possibly valid card numbers.

    It is also possible that the bank could have a breach and the number leak out that way..

  9. Wow, it’s like paying to be unlisted. Bastards.

  10. ju_ju_eyeball says:

    Now that is some great customer service, Key Bank. It appears that Key Bank’s idea of good customer service is find ways to charge customers for things that cost them nothing. Way To Go!

  11. Thomas Palmer says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: What does the star next to your post mean?

  12. northernplateguy says:

    @Thomas Palmer: Eyebrows is a ‘star commenter.’

  13. ironchef says:

    time to move to another bank. It’s the best way to let them know they SUCK.

  14. Cranky Customer says:

    Oh, my Gawd. KeyBank is brilliant.

    All other SurCharge addicts — banks, phone companies, airlines, hotels, car rentals companies and their ilk — should take note. After you’ve sliced and diced to death the various services you offer and the service fees you charge, and it appears as if there’s nothing left, fear not. Like KeyBank, you can start charging for things you don’t provide at all. NO debit card with this account? Boom. $12 more per year. NO band of tribal dancers circling your home 24/7 with this account? Boom. $25 more per year. The possibilities are ENDLESS!

    This reminds me of my morning chuckle when the barista responds to my request for a cup of coffee by asking . . . Would you like ‘some room’ with that? As if ‘some room’ is a scone or something. It’s room. It’s nothing. It’s space you otherwise would have to fill with coffee. It’s . . . LESS COFFEE, yet they make me feel as if I’ve just gotten something extra for my money.

  15. @Thomas Palmer: I think it means I’m awesome, it just showed up randomly last week.

    Either that or the Consumerist is stalking me and knows when my birthday is, because that’s when it showed up. :D

  16. tekkierich says:

    Here is is the conversation:

    Them: That will be a $1 per month convenience charge to remove the visa portion of your card.
    You: Really? that is ridiculous. I don’t want to pay that.
    Them: I am sorry, it is bank policy.
    You: I have a policy if not paying ridiculous fees. Remove the Visa like I ask and do not charge me the dollar. If you can not do this simple task I will close all of my accounts with this bank. I don’t think you want to lose a customer over a dollar do you?

  17. BalknChain says:

    On another bank issue, has anyone heard of a bank refusing to deposit a check that was already signed over? All of a sudden BOA is requiring that I have to be present for my husband to deposit my check even if I have already signed it over. Or I have to deposit it mself, which they might not allow eiher since the account is solely in his name. This is after years of banking with them.

  18. MARTHA__JONES says:

    When you realize most consumers don’t realize just how crappy debit cards are this is a really socially irresponsible policy.

  19. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @jcapello: quoted for truth. But what will they do when all their customers have no more money to give them? It seems like a realistic fear right now.

  20. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @BalknChain: Is the check written in both of your names?

  21. Exek says:

    Most of the small banks do this. I also notice some doing like 6% apy on the checking accounts then when you read the fine print need to have a debit card linked to checking and use it at least 6 times in a month as a visa debit failure to do so forfeits the free atms and brings down your interest rate down to .15% APY

  22. BalknChain says:

    @MARTHA__JONES: no, it is my paycheck

  23. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @BalknChain: No easy explanation then! Sleazy too, since if you call them up most banks have no problems lying to you until you prove to them that you know your legal rights by quoting a few applicable codes.

  24. toddkravos says:

    Another reason as to s why they’re called “Fee Bank” here in Cleveland.

  25. toddkravos says:

    @balknChain – National City here in Cleveland requires the same thing; both parties be present when depositing.
    If the ATM is used, they haul you both in. It’s really a painful change and all in the name of security.

  26. BalknChain says:

    @MARTHA__JONES: It makes no sense to me. We went from both signing and my husband depositing, then we both signed and I had to write “pay to the order of” after my signature and before his, now this newest twist where I have to be present. I told him to change banks, I’ve had enough and BOA is over here as one of the top 10 poor companies. With my work and school hours I will be relegated to Saturday banking so we can both be there. What a pain.

  27. @Buran: Not to mention plenty of Credit Unions he could switch to.

  28. BalknChain says:

    @toddkravos: So should we expect more banks to do this too? I miss he old days when the banks knew you by name and actually showed you respect. A little “Thank you for all your money that we can now lend to the collapsing housing market! Buh-bye.” would be nice. *sigh*

  29. @Exek: What bank is this?

  30. Buran says:

    @toddkravos: Huh? Isn’t the point of an ATM not having to come in at all? Change banks. Please. Tell them why.

  31. mac-phisto says:

    @BalknChain: yeah, that kinda sounds like b.s., but it’s probably a policy to reduce check fraud. perhaps if you sit down with the manager, you may be able to get your account notated for an exception.

    it seems a bit strange that you’re not on his account, though. if it’s the only account you two have, you could find yourself in quite the pickle should you find yourself in an emergency situation that requires access to the account.

  32. sauceistheboss says:


    If he shreds the card then he can’t use the ATM at all.

  33. BalknChain says:

    @mac-phisto: After a Nasty divorce from my ex-husband it was recommended by a lawyer to me to keep as much as possible in my current husband’s name. My ex was trying to steal from me and use my ss# and even tried applying for things in my father’s name because they had the same first name. My father is still arguing with one collector to this day who, while they no longer believe my father is my ex, they now think my father is just hiding him..? OK, TMI, but the legal recommendation holds for a while yet. I’m thinking about presenting that info to BOA.

  34. mac-phisto says:

    @BalknChain: that’s unfortunate. this is a very common form of id theft & yet very little is done about it.

    i would suggest sitting down w/ the manager – bring what information you’re willing to have placed on file at the bank, but see if you can get the account notated without it.

    & if that doesn’t work, consider a smaller operation. savings banks & credit unions typically indulge individual needs that don’t follow scripts.

  35. ludwigk says:

    I used to bank with Key when I lived in Maine. The tellers and managers were nice, and I never had problems. I specifically did not have a debit card, and it did not cost me, so this must be new. It always tripped the tellers out when I would go to the window to withdraw $20, and they would ask me why I didn’t use my ATM or debit card, and I would explain to them that I had neither. They usually didn’t even think it was possible.

    I know it didn’t cost me because I was nearly broke the entire time I lived in Maine, and I would have definitely noticed a $1/mo charge on my “totally free checking” account.

  36. jimconsumer says:

    I’m sorry, but I pity you fools with banks. Seriously, just walk away. Find a local credit union and virtually all your banking troubles will disappear.

    I’ve never had a bank account in my life. Opened my first account with a credit union when I was 14 and have been with them since. You couldn’t pay me to move my assets to a regular old “bank” with all their stupid games.

  37. xrodion says:

    That bank must suck to charge that fee.

  38. I have to side with Key Bank on this one… Sneaky as at may be, it is clearly stated in their disclosure, available on their website when you open an account, and it should be provided if you open an account in person.

    Under the “Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions for Electronic Fund Transfer Transactions” agreement:

    (b) KeyBank ATM Card Charge. If you possess only a KeyBank ATM Card and not a KeyBank Debit Card or a KeyMiles card, your primary account linked to the KeyBank ATM Card will be charged a $1.00 monthly KeyBank ATM Card fee. If you possess all three types of Cards or only a KeyBank Debit Card or a KeyMiles card, you will not be charged this fee.

    But snapping back to reality, if you went into the bank to open an account and read every line of every paragraph before you signed the paperwork, you would be there for hours, so nobody reads everything, and there it was, tucked away not in the main document, but in the “Other Important Agreements and Disclosure” statement, hidden again in the middle (section 7) of this document.


    My sympathy shifts back to the OP

  39. webworm98 says:

    Key bank has different accounts. Also, the monthly fee for an atm charge must vary depending on your state. When, I read the account agreement, there is no monthly fee with or without an atm/debit card. You could also still get that dual use card and just use it mostly as a pin transactions. Key bank use to charge for pin transactions, they do not anymore.

    I myself (Not through key bank) have a debit card. I use it. However, I keep my daily authorization limit at $1,000 for Signature and pin transactions. I check my account online everyday. Sometimes more often.

  40. kc2idf says:

    There are actually a lot of good reasons not to do business with Key Bank. I left Key Bank for HSBC for cryin’ out loud!

  41. vastrightwing says:

    Another reason to keep your money safe inside your mattress.

  42. humphrmi says:

    @sauceistheboss: I didn’t get that he wanted an ATM card. But as @Dooley points out, the fee isn’t for not having a debit card, it’s for having an ATM-only card. Sure, splitting hairs, whatever. You can also get by without an ATM card, and apparently they won’t charge a fee for that.

  43. BalknChain says:

    @mac-phisto: We will probably be doing just that, thank you.

  44. B says:

    I’m glad everybody liked my story. For the record, I’ve had nothing but good experiences from Key up to this point.

  45. MeOhMy says:

    I hate that crap. I don’t want people to people to hit my account directly without at LEAST having to use a PIN. For non-PIN transactions, I’ll use other people’s money in the form of a real credit card, thanks.

    Commerce/TD Banknorth, if you are reading this: If you EVER try this crap, I am gone. That is a promise.

    At the moment, however, Commerce does not mind that I don’t have a stupid Visa Checkcard.

  46. Wormfather says:

    They make a crap load more than $12, everytime you use your card something like 0.7% of that purchase is their cut of the interchange fee.

  47. toddkravos says:

    @Buran: Yup, it is the point of ATMs in a typical customer world view. But the bank (and more of them it seems) tend to disagree when it comes to signing over a check thing.

  48. Buran says:

    @toddkravos: I really hope you ARE leaving that bank, then.

  49. themidget says:

    @BalknChain: I have BOA premier checking, and even at that account level I can’t deposit checks with the teller that are written to and endorsed by my husband because he is not on the account. I’m actually surprised they let you do this before. I don’t use this checking account very often, so I don’t know if I had tried to deposit husband’s check before, but they wouldn’t let me, and this was probably around 2 years ago. If I talk to the private banker rep that I have, she has much more latitude to do stuff. So maybe it’s just an issue that the teller doesn’t have the authority? I would suggest talking to a rep at the branch. Or switching banks, although I have had a great experience with BofA, even though occasional bureaucratic nonsense comes up. They have also treated my mother extremely well through years of my dad being ill and his death.

  50. BalknChain says:

    @themidget: Thank you for the feedback and I’m glad you/your family have had good experiences with BOA. I am just of the mindset that I like to see rules/regulations, and their changes, in writing not by word of mouth since we all know how word of mouth changes mouth to mouth.

  51. j3s says:

    Assuming it was feasible to do so, I would be more apt to closing the account than shredding the card and effectively paying for something I didn’t use. Before doing so, I would fire off an e-mail to customer service, and likely a few other higher ups at the bank as well, mentioning my concerns about the debit card, inquiring as to the exact reasoning for the fee, and, finally, stating my intention to close the account if it was not permanently removed. This would serve to satisfy my own curiosity as to their official response, remind bank executives and officials of the absurdity of the charge, and, hopefully, get someone to wave it so that closing the account wouldn’t actually be necessary.

    I understand the bank’s need to make money, but, forcing customers to pay for things they flat out do not want is a really stupid way to go about it. There is far too much competition is this sector to give into something like that. I’m sure a local credit union would be more than happy to meet your needs.

  52. Nick says:

    Get a new debit card, cut it in half, and do not activate it. If you somehow get unauthorized charges, your cut up card that was never activated along with your history of non-use should provide plenty of proof that the charges were fraudulent.

  53. TheFlamingoKing says:

    From the comments, I get the feeling people believe that the banks want to service all customers equally and should do whatever to retain a customer. I can assure you I work in the industry and nothing could be further from the truth. Every customer has a profitability rating based on the products you buy and how much it costs to service those products vs how much money they bring in. Some banks have really refined models while others are just ballpark figures, but they do exist. These banks are either currently using this data or working on it now, in order to service the customers that bring in the most profit and retain them at whatever cost is worth it, while letting the “little guys” which generally cost money to the bank leave – they’re just gonna end up costing some other bank money.

    I’m just saying, expect more and more over the upcoming years to get nothing but deaf ears and blind stares when you go demanding from the bank “or else” – unless you have big money or pay those exorbitant fees all the time you may get the “or else”.

    Specifically, in this case, you signed up for Free Checking. That means “please give me as little service as possible, since I am not paying for it.” Key assumes no debits mean you will be writing a whole lot more checks. To Key, checks are expensive, if only for the record keeping and data storage (look into Check 21 legislation). So they are charging $1 a month to offset the cost in performing the check transactions.

    If you can talk to a CSR, and explain that you are not going to be writing checks due to the cancellation of the debit card, you may be able to get it waived – but probably unlikely if you aren’t making much money for the bank. The banks don’t have to answer to Main Street, they have to answer to Wall Street, so don’t be surprised if they really don’t care about you like you wish they did.

  54. RIP MRHANDS says:

    @TheFlamingoKing: I see where you are coming from, but it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    If you do not have the intention of using your debit card but are balking at the idea of paying the bank $1/monthly for the privilege of not having one, the decision will simply be to lock up the debit card somewhere, or shred it, and hope that you do not become the victim of some sort of credit card number fraud.

    In this case, the functional difference between paying $1/monthly and not using the card is null and the bank actually loses more money because they have to deal with the liability of the debit account (assuming the bank has some sort of guarantee against fraud) and maintainence of the card in their systems and with VISA/MC.

  55. quail says:

    I know I’m commenting late on this. But a nonprofit I volunteer for has a Key Bank account. For more than 14 months there never was online access. During that time there were no fees associated with the account. When I took over as treasurer I talked the other members into setting things up for online access. It was at that point that I started to see the $1 a month ATM Access fee show up. I just figured it was an online access fee since it only showed up once online banking was allowed. In the end I don’t think it’s too much considering what other banks charge in service fees. And $12 a year is small compared to the convenience of online banking.

  56. MeOhMy says:

    @TheFlamingoKing: Sure, trying to get rid of unprofitable customers is just good business sense, but come on…you got the free checking, you have to do all of your transactions at ATMs, the bank is profiting on whatever meager amount you’ve got in your account, do they really need to charge you to have a non-debit ATM card? Is $12/year really going to make or break the enterprise? If the cost of cheapniks writing a million checks is the problem, why not just charge them for writing too many checks? Does Visa really give that much of a kickback for trying to force these on customers?

    More likely it has less to do with getting rid of needy clients and more to do with the old “If I could get 1 million people to give me a dollar…” game.

  57. Sys Admn says:

    @BalknChain: I suspect this policy has a hidden reason, in addition to fighting fraud. Banks are just dying to get people to use electronic deposit for paychecks. It is much, much, cheaper for them. At my current bank (BankOne, before Chase screwed things up), they throw in several perks if you have at least one electronic deposit a month.

  58. BalknChain says:

    @Sys Admn: Thanks. Here is another kicker; my job will not direct deposit into an account with only my husband’s name on it. Same boat, different paddle. We will go into the bank and try to have a sit down with management. If their main concern is preventing fraud/theft maybe my concerns over my ex’s potential for such will help them to understand.
    **that last sentence of mine is a mess..

  59. akronharry says:

    FirstMerit gives you a free debit card but charges one dollar a month for the honor of using their ATM card. We pay it because we don’t want to carry a debit card but we do need access to cash when the bank is closed. What a scam.