TCF Brings Back Free Checking Accounts

A company spokesman said he expects the bank to garner "more deposits and more customers" following the elimination of $9.95 monthly maintenance fees, which were imposed a year ago.

TCF Financial Corporation has reinstated its “totally free checking”-thus changing course from a January 2010 decision to impose monthly fees.

Wayzata-based TCF said Thursday that TCF National Bank customers who deposit at least $500 into their checking account each month, complete at least 10 transactions per month, or have at least $2,500 in bank accounts (including savings) will no longer need to pay the monthly fee.

A year ago, TCF-which pioneered free checking two decades ago-imposed a $9.95 monthly maintenance fee to try to make up for revenue that it expected to lose as a result of new regulations that went into effect in July. Those regulations prohibit banks from automatically assessing overdraft fees when customers have insufficient funds in their accounts and allow such fees to be imposed only if customers opt in to overdraft protection.

TCF spokesman Jason Korstange told Twin Cities Business on Thursday that most of its more than 1 million checking-account customers will no longer have to pay the monthly maintenance fee-although he didn't provide an exact figure.

However, even after the bank's decision last year to begin assessing such fees, they didn't apply to all customers. Those who had at least $100 directly deposited each month, kept a checking-account balance of at least $500, or had at least $2,500 in bank accounts (including savings) were not charged.

Korstange said that the old requirements hindered potential new customers; the $500 minimum balance in particular was an impediment for those considering opening accounts.

“Obviously we expect to have more deposits and more customers” with the return of free checking, Korstange said. “Certainly some left” the bank when monthly fees were imposed last year.

In addition to having to adapt to the new overdraft regulations that took effect in July, TCF has recently been fighting a provision in the recently passed federal Wall Street Reform Act. TCF in October filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Durbin amendment, which limits the interchange fees that large banks can charge on debit card transactions. The bank claimed that the limits wouldn't cover all of the costs that banks incur to manage the debit card system.

With approximately $18.3 billion in assets, TCF Financial Corporation-under which TCF National Bank operates-is Minnesota's second-largest bank holding company. It has 440 banking offices in Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Colorado, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arizona, and South Dakota.