Bank of the West is following many other large banks in ending its free checking account. On its website, the free checking has been replaced with Easy Checking. Bank of the West (BotW) customers are being notified by mail that their free checking accounts will soon be converted. According to a BotW customer service representative, not all customers are being converted at once. I was told that California conversions will take place in March, and letters to CA customers went out on January 3rd.
I've posted on several Bank of the West checking account promotions over the years. Last year they offered $100 bonuses for opening their free checking account, and in 2010 they had offered the iPod touch as a bonus. If you had opened the free checking account in one of these promotions, make sure you avoid the fee by either closing the account or meeting the requirements to have the monthly fee waived.
The Easy Checking has a $10 monthly fee if you receive paper statements or $8 if you receive e-statements. To avoid this fee, at least one of the following is required:
- $1,000 average monthly balance in this account, OR
- Single direct deposit of $250 or more per statement cycle, OR
- Ten or more debit card POS purchases (signature and/or PIN) per statement cycle
Those who are 55 or over can qualify for 55 Plus Checking which has no monthly service fees. You can compare these checking accounts at this BotW checking page.
It's interesting to see that debit card usage is one of the options to waive the monthly fee. Since BotW has over $10 billion in assets, its debit cards fall under the Federal Reserve cap on interchange fees. This cap was part of the Durbin Amendment that went into effect last year. The banks had lobbied hard against this regulation claiming that it would force them to end free checking.
Bank of the West is one of the large regional banks. It has $62 billion in assets and over 650 branches in several western and mid-western states. It has an overall health rating at DepositAccounts.com of 5 stars (out of 5) with a Texas Ratio of 11.45% (above average) based on September 2011 data. Please refer to our financial overview of Bank of the West for more details. The bank has been a FDIC member since 1934 (FDIC Certificate # 3514).