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JPMorgan's snarky tweet about financial wellness draws swift backlash

What was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek tweet by JPMorgan Chase about how consumers sometimes make poor financial decisions quickly went awry Monday as critics and lawmakers seized on it as evidence the bank is tone-deaf and doesn’t care about its customers.

The bank on Monday tweeted using the hashtag #MondayMotivation in an apparent effort to tout the benefits of saving money. But the tweet played into stereotypes of millennials as frivolous spenders, playing off a popular meme to suggest that simply cutting unnecessary expenses is the answer to low checking account balances.

“You: why is my balance so low,” it read. “Bank account: make coffee at home. Bank account: eat the food that’s already in the fridge. Bank account: you don’t need a cab, it’s only three blocks. You: I guess we’ll never know. Bank account: seriously?”

The backlash on Twitter was both instantaneous and predictable.

(For the record, though JPMorgan accepted Troubled Asset Relief Program money during the financial crisis, it didn't actually need it, unlike some other megabanks at the time. It repaid the funds with interest several years ago.)

JPMorgan quickly deleted the tweet, replacing it with the similarly tongue-in-cheek tweet saying its motivation was to get better at #Mondaymotivation, but the damage was done.

By then, lawmakers, including Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., had seized on the tweet.

The tweet comes at a time when income inequality—and banks’ role in perpetuating it—is becoming a hot-button topic. JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon was taken to task over the issue at a House Financial Services Committee hearing earlier this month. Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat said recently the issue “keeps him up at night.”

Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., who initially questioned Dimon on the topic at the hearing, used the tweet to press home the issue, arguing the bank just doesn’t get it.

It’s hardly the first bank tweet to draw outrage — and such moments often quickly fade as the Internet finds something new to be angry about. But as banks get drawn deeper into the debate over income inequality, such actions are likely to continue to fuel popular distrust of large financial institutions.

Chase has attempted to win over younger customers distrustful of its brand by launching a digital-only option called Finn by Chase, which offers remote check deposit, peer-to-peer payments, money transfer and bill pay.

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