Predictions of the end of free checking seem to have come true, at least for U.S. Bank: I recently received notice that my free checking account, which I’ve had for over a decade, will now have a monthly fee attached if I don’t carry a minimum balance or do enough in direct deposits. Since my main account is with ING Direct, I use my U.S. Bank account for two things: the odd check that I have to deposit at an ATM (ING doesn’t do ATM deposits), and the one check I write a month that I can’t send electronically (thanks, bus pass!). So I will not be maintaining those accounts balances, and since I don’t feel like paying anything, U.S. Bank will lose a customer.
What I don’t get, though, is why banks aren’t coming up with more flexible options. Pretty much every bank that is getting rid of free checking is doing the “maintain a minimum balance or pay a set fee each month” approach. Why not have a variety of options? How about a fee per ATM use, or a fee per check? I’d be much happier to select an option like that. Seems like it wouldn’t be that hard for banks to put together a cafeteria-style menu of account options and let customers choose what they would prefer (with limitations, of course, on how often you can change things, so you can’t game the system too much). A flat fee for unlimited ATM use and checking doesn’t appeal to me because I don’t need those things.
So now, the question is where to go. I could go to a credit union, or just use my wife’s account. But for lack of account options and flexibility, U.S. Bank will be losing a customer.