Bidding to bring more customers into the bank and capitalize on other big-bank mergers in the region, Citicorp has eliminated a group of what it terms "nuisance fees."
The bank will no longer charge: $15 for stop-payment orders, $10 for checks with insufficient funds, $2 for safety check overdraft protection, $2 notary fees, $20 consular letter fees, and $5 bond coupon redemption fees.
The bank has also cut out its $1 fee for using non-Citibank automated teller machines, and eliminated its $9.50 charge for certified and cashier checks, as long as customers keep at least $2,000 in a checking account or $6,000 in combined accounts.
Citicorp's latest move comes as part of a broader revamping of the bank's consumer operations under Willy Socquet, marketplace manager for New York City. The changes have been accompanied by an aggressive advertising campaign that plays on consumer fears about recent big-bank merger announcements in the region.
Chase Manhattan Corp. and Chemical Banking Corp, two of the biggest players in the New York retail market, are due to merge before the end of next month, while Fleet Financial Group agreed in December to acquire the U.S. retail bank operations of National Westminster Bancorp, a major force in New York and New Jersey.
Spokesmen at Chase and Chemical said they were unable to say whether their institutions were reconsidering the fees they charge.
In June, Citicorp announced it was wiping out fees for all electronic banking transactions, including transaction fees at Citibank branches, monthly service and transaction fees for electronic bill payment, and monthly fees for banking through a personal computer or on a screen phone.
Citicorp estimated the June decision has so far cost the bank $11 million in revenue. But the bank also said it has nearly tripled the number of customers enrolled in electronic banking services, to 125,000, and that 20% of the customers are new to Citibank.
"New customers enrolling in electronic banking services are younger with lower balances," Citicorp said in a statement. "The bank views this as an opportunity to expand relationships as customers mature, increase balances, and become financially active."
The bank added that customers who habitually maintain lower balances are now "migrating toward electronic banking at a higher rate than other customers."
Citicorp spokeswoman Susan Weeks said the bank is actively seeking to get more customers to try electronic banking in order to free up staff to do other things, including sales and financial advice.
Analysts noted that the latest campaign also represents a drive by Citicorp to change its image and build up its consumer banking base at the expense of rivals.
"It's one more effort to make them look user-friendly," said Diane Glossman, a banking analyst with Salomon Brothers Inc.
She noted that the Citicorp move contrasted sharply with a decision by First Chicago Corp. last year to impose a $3 fee for using a bank teller rather than an ATM.
"It's a big bold move (for Citicorp) fraught with dangers," said Kevin Tynan, a Chicago consultant. "They've separated themselves from the big banks, which are known for high fees, but you have to assume they won't reintroduce those fees for years to come."