Almost two-dozen banks in New York City do not appear to offer or widely advertised basic checking accounts, although state law requires it, the New York City Comptroller said Friday.
That was one of several findings in a Friday report that showed New York consumers have trouble finding affordable options for bank accounts. Along with the report, Comptroller Scott Stringer's office released a website designed to help consumers find banks to meet their needs, such as online bill payment or foreign-language service. The site is takeittothebank.nyc.
New York state law requires banks to offer so-called "lifeline" accounts. Banks must allow consumers to open accounts with no more than $25 for the initial deposit; monthly maintenance fees must be capped at $3; and consumers must be allowed to conduct at least eight free monthly withdrawals and unlimited deposits.
Stringer's office conducted a survey that found 21 banks could not provide information on a product meeting all these requirements; the report cautioned that the banks could have missed meeting only one of the requirements. Stringer's office said that it will follow up with all 21 banks.
"All New Yorkers need a safe and affordable place to keep their money," Stringer said in a news release.
Moreover, many banks make it difficult for consumers to determine their options for opening an account.
"New Yorkers trying to open their first checking account face a bewildering array of options," Stringer said.
A wide range of institutions did not meet the standards of the report, including large banks and community banks. The four largest U.S. banks all appeared to not offer or widely advertise "lifeline" accounts, the Comptroller said.
Wells Fargo offers its customers "a variety of checking account options, all of which include many valuable services and are competitively priced," a spokesman said. All of the accounts provide options for waiving the monthly service fee, and to cash checks without a fee.
JPMorgan Chase declined to discuss the report except to note through a spokesman that it offers Chase Liquid, a reloadable prepaid card that has a flat $4.95 monthly fee and does not allow overdrafts.
Citigroup and Bank of America did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In other findings, the Comptroller said maintenance and transaction fees, on average, cost a cumulative $73 per year for low-balance customers.
Minimum requirements for initial deposits ranged from $0 to $500.
Additionally, few banks were found to accept the city's new ID card as a valid form of identification; and many of the banks that offer affordable options have limited branch networks.
The report surveyed 74 banks in New York City; the Comptroller's office did not indicate if it's also surveying credit unions. Stringer's staff approached banks as if they were potential customers and communicated with bank personnel about product offerings.