SunTrust is the latest bank to drop detested debit card fees

Credit card being swiped through a card reader

SunTrust Banks is the latest to back down.

The Atlanta-based bank has rescinded the $5 monthly fee it imposed on checking account customers who used their debit card to buy something. Anything.

SunTrust, which has 1,661 branches from Florida to Maryland, went so far as to say it would refund any debit card fees its customers have already paid.

"We've listened to our clients' feedback and will provide the convenience and security of check cards at no additional charge as part of all of our checking accounts," Brad Dinsmore, the bank's consumer banking and private wealth management executive, said in a statement released Monday.

Several big national and regional banks have come under withering criticism for trying to impose such a fee in the first place.

The banks did so after losing a bruising legislative and regulatory battle with retailers, who persuaded the government to cap "swipe fees" for debit card purchases at 24 cents a purchase.

That was just over half of what banks had been charging stores.

When banks tried to make up the lost revenue from checking account holders, their customers pushed back, with one Los Angles art gallery owner organizing Bank Transfer Day.

More than 68,000 like-minded customers have said they'll close their accounts at big banks and move their money to credit unions or smaller community banks this Saturday.

SunTrust’s decision follows on the heels of word Friday that JPMorgan Chase & Co. will end its test of $3 monthly debit card fees, which it rolled out in Georgia and northern Wisconsin earlier this year.

Shortly after that Wells Fargo & Co. said it was ditching plans to test a $3 monthly debit card fee in Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.

Those decisions leave only two major banks standing by the fee.

Regions Bank has already begun charging a $4 monthly debit card fee on its LifeGreen Checking accounts, and there's no indication that the southern bank based in Birmingham, Ala., is rethinking that decision.

Bank of America seems to be having some second thoughts about the $5 debit card feel it's supposed to roll out nationwide in early 2012.

Unnamed sources have told several financial news sites that it's considering changes in the rules that would exempt most customers from paying the fee.

But so far no official announcement from the bank's Charlotte, N.C., headquarters.

I also have to wonder whether Regions and Bank of America want to be the only major banks charging such a fee.

It gives every bank they're competing against for checking account customers a clear advantage that they're taking full advantage of right now.

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