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Bank of America Offers Account That Is Free Until Teller Visit

Brian T. Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America
Brian T. Moynihan, chief executive officer of Bank of America Corp. Photographer: Chris Keane/Bloomberg

Bank of America Corp. has a novel way to lure more customers: Free checking accounts for folks who never again enter the bank.

The bank, the largest in the U.S. by assets, is introducing an account on Aug. 6 that won’t include a monthly fee or minimum balance requirement unless the customer wants to use a teller or receive a monthly statement through the mail, said David Owen, a senior vice president for checking and debit at the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company. Visiting a branch to make a deposit will trigger an $8.95 fee per month, he said.

Bank of America has tested the program in Georgia for eight months with a third of new customers selecting the account, Owen said in an interview yesterday. “It has had a much broader appeal than we initially thought,” he said.

Bank of America is looking for more ways to make money from consumer banking amid a U.S. regulatory overhaul, which ratings company DBRS Inc. estimated may cut $1.9 billion from the lender’s annual debit-card and credit-card revenue. The Senate may vote as soon as this week on a bill that also establishes a consumer financial protection agency.

Bank of America views the new account as different from the mid-1990s programs by First Chicago Corp. and other banks to levy $3 fees on people who dealt with tellers instead of automated teller machines. The banks later dropped the charges after criticism from customers.

“This account is up to the customer and they can choose how they want to bank with us,” Owen said. “This is nothing like those early programs.”

The bank has about 18,000 ATMs, including about 13,800 that print images of deposited checks. Account holders who need to deposit coins or have service-related questions won’t be charged a monthly fee, Owen said.

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