By Samantha Bomkamp, Chicago Tribune

Bank of America has eliminated its only free checking account that doesn’t require a minimum balance, causing an uproar from customers on social media and spurring a petition to reverse the decision.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank said it moved eBanking customers into accounts that require them to keep a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or set up a monthly direct deposit of $250 or more in order to avoid a maintenance fee of $12 a month.

The move leaves few options for low-income consumers of big banks who either aren’t able to keep that much money in their checking accounts, don’t use direct deposit or get paid through some other method, like PayPal.

“The debate over Bank of America’s accounts and fees points to a larger economic justice issue — people with less income pay more to get cash, make payments, and conduct their business,” said Dory Rand, president of the Woodstock Institute, a financial advocacy organization. “Without access to safe and affordable bank accounts, low-income consumers often turn to costly alternative financial services, such as currency exchanges or check-cashers. The bottom line is: the most financially vulnerable need more and better options to transact their business and participate in the financial mainstream.”

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