Bad banks stick it to low-income customers

It’s outrageous that banks with branches right here in Sacramento are allowed to levy surcharges on local low-income people who receive federal cash aid on state-issued plastic debit cards. The charges exacted from the poor at some banks and other institutions range from $1.50 to $3 for each transaction.

For example, Bank of America, Chase and Golden 1 Credit Union charge CalWORKs recipients $3 per transaction for accessing their Electronic Benefit Transfer funds at an ATM. The local poor are also charged to access their EBT monies at 7-Eleven ($2.95), CVS Pharmacy ($3) and Target ($3).

Why are private banks allowed to take federal cash from the poor? A little more than a decade ago, California shifted cash-aid recipients to EBT cards so as to save costs. Unfortunately, the change somehow opened the gate for banks and others to elicit surcharges.

Last month, an SN&R story, “The big squeeze” by Seth Sandronsky (Frontlines, January 19), detailed this new burden placed on California welfare recipients.

For now, the practice goes on. But luckily, some banks (and most local credit unions) don’t charge the poor extra to access their benefits. Locally, the “good” banks are: Citibank, First Northern Bank, Mechanics Bank, River City Bank, Sacramento Credit Union, Umpqua Bank, U.S. Bank, USE Credit Union and Yolo Federal Credit Union. Congratulations to these financial institutions for exhibiting a conscience. As for the aforementioned “bad” banks? Folks, it’s never too late to grow some decency.