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Big bank bucks debit fee trend

By David McMillin · Bankrate.com
Friday, October 28, 2011
Posted: 4 pm ET

As account holders hold their breaths and hope to avoid new bank fees, one of America's biggest banks has offered some good news: fewer account restrictions, more benefits and the assurance of no fees for debit card use.

In an announcement Thursday, Huntington National Bank confirmed it has no plans to charge account holders for debit card use and unveiled plans to upgrade all of its checking account holders to a Platinum Debit MasterCard, a card that includes additional consumer protection. These new plans build on the bank's debut of a new checking program earlier this year that features no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements and gives account holders a grace period for overdraft charges.

As consumers lower their expectations for customer service and organize banking protest days, this type of announcement certainly comes as a surprise. If you're like me, you're waiting to receive a message from your bank announcing new fees and changes to your account that may end up costing you. I would expect this from credit unions or smaller banks, not a larger bank like Huntington, which has more than 600 branches and $52 billion in assets.

Obviously, it's a great proactive PR move, and I'm sure the bank believes it will pay off in the long run with new account openings and increasingly happy customers who will turn to the bank for loans and additional profitable banking products. The move also highlights that, contrary to what some bank executives might tell us, the new onslaught of debit card fees are not necessary to keep their doors open.

While we've read plenty of negative comments about banks lately, I'm curious to hear positive reviews of banking institutions. Has your bank given you any news recently that's elevated its status in your eyes? If not, is this kind of announcement enough to motivate you to switch?

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