PNC Bank had been one of the few large banks that had a free checking account with no monthly service fees regardless of balance, direct deposit or use of tellers. That will be ending. On Monday PNC announced that it will be phasing out free checking. Customers will have plenty of time for this change. According to the PNC website:
Effective June 2014, your Free or Free Checking Classic account will transfer to Standard Checking.
No monthly service charge on Standard Checking if you meet any ONE of the following:
- $500 average monthly balance in this account
- $500 in combined, qualifying monthly direct deposits
- Account holder is age 62+
- Otherwise, the monthly service charge for Standard Checking will be $7
- There is no charge for paper statements if you meet the above requirements. If not, there will be a $2 fee.
PNC will no longer allow customers to open a free checking account starting August 18, 2013.
PNC’s online checking account, Virtual Wallet, is also changing, and it’s becoming more difficult to avoid a monthly fee. According to the PNC website:
Effective December 9, 2013
No monthly service charge on Virtual Wallet if you meet any ONE of the following:
Otherwise, the monthly service charge for Virtual Wallet will be $7
- $500 combined average monthly balance in the Spend and/or Reserve accounts
- $500 in combined, qualifying monthly direct deposits in the Spend account
- Use of only ATMs, online banking, mobile banking or other electronic methods to make withdrawals, deposits, and to cash checks
- Proof of active enrollment in an educational institution (monthly service charge waiver expires 6 years after it is assigned)
A PNC spokesman provided some reasons for this change in this Cleveland.com article:
"For current customers, the impact will be minimal," PNC spokesman Pat McMahon said. "Nine out of 10 are banking this way already with balances that exceed the minimums."
PNC said it's making the change to "encourage more customers to make us their primary bank" with larger balances or direct deposits and other relationships with the bank, such as loans, credit cards or investments.
"This is part of our long-term strategy to remain financially strong and invest more in technology and the services that enable customers to bank when and where they want," McMahon said.
And as mentioned in this fools.com article, the market agreed that this change is a good financial move for the bank. PNC’s stock price closed roughly 2.5% higher on this news.
Is the end of free checking bad news for savers? Probably not. Most savers can easily meet the minimum balance requirements if they find a reason to open a PNC checking account. One reason to open the checking account is to take advantage of a new-account bonus. PNC continues to offer a $150 bonus for opening its Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend.
Another reason to open a PNC checking account is to take advantage of a CD special, but with PNC’s current CD rates, that’s no longer something to consider. Finally, savers may want a PNC checking account to reduce the cost of specific banking services like a safe deposit box, or they may want easy access to PNC branches and ATMs.
Do you have a PNC checking account or a checking account at a large bank? Why did you open the account?