Account holders at one of America's biggest banks will soon be saying goodbye to traditional free checking.
This week, PNC announced that it will be phasing out its no-cost, no-strings-attached free-checking program over the next year. All customers - - except seniors 62 and older - - will now need to either maintain an average balance of at least $500 or have at least $500 worth of monthly direct deposits in their PNC accounts. Those who do not meet the requirements in a given month must pay a $7 fee.
Plenty of readers have voiced frustration over the disappearance of free checking at big banks, but the changes at PNC won't create a burden on the vast majority of the bank's customers.
"For current customers, the impact will be minimal," PNC spokesman Patrick McMahon told me via email. "Nine out of 10 are banking this way already with balances that exceed the minimums."
Sure, no one wants to pay bank fees, but PNC's fee structure appears easier to manage than some of the other major players in the banking industry. At Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co., account holders are subject to $12 in fees for failing to meet requirements, including a minimum balance of $1,500.
So where will the money from those fees go? McMahon highlights that PNC's decision to add bank fees is a reflection of the bank's efforts to offer more cutting-edge services to its customers.
"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.
McMahon makes a good point. Banks won't be able to continue to introduce offerings such as mobile check deposit and online spending trackers for free.
Regardless of where you stand on whether banks should charge for checking accounts, this is a trend that isn't going away. However, if bank fees simply won't fly with you, you may want to try moving your money to a credit union. In Bankrate's 2013 Credit Union Checking Survey, 72 percent of the nation's top 50 credit unions still offered no-cost checking accounts.
How much are you paying for your banking services? Have you managed to avoid paying any monthly maintenance fees?