Bank of America (BAC) has introduced a new checking account targeted at customers who typically maintain low balances.
The "Safe Balance" account charges a $4.95 monthly maintenance fee and does not charge overdraft fees, according to the company's website. The account also distinguishes itself by not offering paper checks, instead limiting customers' payment options to debit cards, online bill pay and mobile transfers.
The new product debuts at a time when checking accounts which typically cost lenders more money than they generate are in flux. Lenders' overdraft practices have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as consumer advocacy groups rail against policies that require customers to fork over $35 for a $3 bagel. Meanwhile, more and more lenders abandoned free checking accounts, turning to monthly maintenance fees as a way to increase revenue.
"We've been doing a lot of listening to customers, doing a lot of meetings with regulators and [consumer] advocates," Andrew Plepler, Bank of America's head of global corporate social responsibility and consumer policy, told The Wall Street Journal Thursday. "Predictability, safety, no surprises, no hidden fees is a recurring theme."
Bank of America offers two other checking accounts. Each include a monthly maintenance fee that can be waived if customers meet certain conditions, such as a minimum monthly balance.