Fee increase proposed for currency exchanges

Stacey Baca Image
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
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A push is underway to charge more money when you cash any check at a currency exchange.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A push is underway to charge more money when you cash any check at a currency exchange.

An association for the companies argued they are making less money, even forcing some to close down. The association's president said more than 180 currency exchanges have closed during the past nine years. For some, increasing checking fees is not the solution.

Craig Coleman, who works as an overnight baker, echoed the complaints of many customers.

"Every time I look around there's a fee here and a fee there, and a smaller check," he said.

Coleman and other customers are worried about a possible increase when cashing a check.

"The more you make, the more they're going to take," said Debra Linnear, currency exchange customer.

Elected officials like State Senator Jackie Collins, who also chairs the Senate Financial Institutions Committee, are also opposed to the increase. She and other politicians held a news conference Wednesday to denounce the proposed increase.

"This policy will nickel and dime those who can least afford it," Collins said.

So, crunching the numbers, this is what the proposed increase would look like. Right now cashing a $100 check costs $2.40; after the increase it would cost $3.50. The cost to cash a $400 would jump from $11.25 to $12.50.

One of the arguments against increasing fees at the news conference was that more low-income people use currency exchanges instead of banks.

"Those who have less pay more. For cashing a check, most people pay zero. Nothing. It is very expensive to be poor," said Brent Adams, Woodstock Institute.

The State Department of Financial and Professional Regulation also held a hearing on the issue. The state's Currency Exchange Association presented a pro-increase point of view.

"Currency exchange locations are literally being forced to close because they cannot earn a profit or commensurate rate of return," said Martin Lieberman, president of the Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois.

"An increase in maximum check cashing rates is not a tax, it is a way to pay for the cost and risk of a service offered by a business," said John Iberl, former president of CCEAI.

Some customers understand it's a business, but also feel it's a business built with their hard-earned money.

"It's a business, and so with that they need to make money," Linnear said.

"With all these fees and what not, I'm doing the best I can," Coleman said.

The fee increase is not a done deal. There is a government process in place that can still take several weeks. In the end, a state commission made up of 12 legislators will make a final decision.

The commission meets monthly, but the earliest they are likely to hear this issue is in November.