BBVA Compass is the latest major bank that will be adding monthly maintenance fees to its checking accounts. A reader just notified me of the following message that's now in the small print of the Build-to-Order Checking page:
EFFECTIVE FEBRUARY 15, 2011, there is a monthly service charge of $8.95 per statement cycle for Build-to-Order Checking. This charge will not apply for statement cycles during which at least one of the following requirements are met:
* There is at least one Direct Deposit (ACH) credit of $300 or more from an unrelated 3rd party (such as an employer or Social Security), OR
* The account has an average daily collected balance of at least $1,500, OR
* The account is enrolled (subject to eligibility) in the BBVA Compass Preferred Client Program.
If the primary accountholder is a student (active student ID required), the monthly service charge will not apply for a period of up to 5 years, or until the primary accountholder reaches age 25, whichever comes first, if the primary accountholder applies and is approved for student status.
I have the Build-to-Order checking, and my last statement didn't mention this. So I called Compass to see if this will apply to existing customers. According to the CSR, it will apply to both new and existing customers. They will be mailing notices starting on January 10th.
Many readers may have opened this Build-to-Order checking account from past sign-up bonuses, and many may have kept it open to take advantage of some of the perks such as the $25 anniversary bonus. Keeping a $1,500 balance is an easy way to keep the account free, but you'll lose out on interest. If you maintain a $1,500 balance and receive the $25 annual bonus for keeping the account active, that comes out to an interest rate of 1.67%.
This is another disappointment from BBVA Compass. On Monday, it cut the rate on the SmartyPig savings account from 1.75% to 1.35% APY. Even though the account is managed by SmartyPig, BBVA Compass holds the deposits and decides on its interest rates.
These cuts appear to be part of cost cutting at BBVA Compass. According to this mediabistro.com blog post, BBVA Compass "has run out of money to spend for advertising."
BBVA Compass operates more than 717 branches in Texas, Alabama, California, Arizona, Florida, Colorado and New Mexico. According to one of its press releases, it's the 15th largest U.S. commercial bank based on deposit market share. It's under the bank holding company Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria S.A., the second largest bank in Spain.
Update 1/11/2011: I received the letter from BBVA Compass informing me of the new monthly service fee. I've uploaded a copy of the letter.