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Oregon's Treasurers Promises "Hard" Negotiations On Bank Fees

SALEM, Ore. - Earlier this week Bank of America backed down on a five dollar monthly fee for debit card users. That gives consumer groups hope that similar fee relief could come to people who receive benefits by a reloadable cash card.

Some 40 percent of Oregon's unemployed get their jobless benefits via a reloadable debit card from US Bank. It's one example of how states are turning to electronic benefits distribution. Oregon's contract with US Bank provides for four free cash withdrawals a month. But further ATM or teller withdrawals incur a dollar-fifty fee. Consumer activist groups are leaning on Oregon treasurer Ted Wheeler to negotiate what they consider a better deal. Wheeler says he's taking those concerns to the bank in contract renewal talks underway now.

Ted Wheeler: "We know what the issues are with regard to some of the fees charged to some of our most impoverished citizens. And those fees don't sit well with me or many other people for that matter."

Wheeler declined to be more specific about the talks. On a separate track, Washington state officials are jousting with JP MorganChase. They're negotiating to reduce and disclose an 85-cent fee charged to welfare clients every time they withdraw cash at an ATM.

A US Bank spokesperson says even after the four free monthly withdrawals, customers can get cash back for free when making a purchase at many stores.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

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