Hoping to snare customers who are disgruntled with Citicorp's new account structure, New York banking institutions have gone on the attack.

Astoria Financial Corp., a $7.9 billion-asset thrift with branches in Queens and Brooklyn, has launched an advertising blitz in local newspapers with the tag line "Is your free checking account being held for ransom?"

The ads take direct aim at Citicorp, which this month announced it would revamp its account structure and create a new product, dubbed Citibank Account, that would raise from $2,000 to $6,000 the minimum balance required to avoid service charges.

Republic New York Corp. said it would continue to run an aggressive schedule of advertisements in local newspapers and on radio touting its lower minimum deposit products-$1,500 in personal checking to avoid service fees.

"We think we have the best deal in the city," said Philip Burgess, a spokesman for $45.9 billion-asset Republic.

At the time of its announcement, Citicorp said its new structure would benefit 90% of account holders, because they could apply outstanding Citi credit card balances and mortgages toward the minimum.

But other banks in New York have seized the opportunity to attract consumers who cannot amass enough credit and deposit balances to meet the minimum. Rival banks estimate that about 190,000 Citibank account holders fall into such a category.

"They now have the highest requirements in the market," said Ken Herz, a spokesman for Chase Manhattan Corp. "We would expect to get some of those customers."

Chase announced lower minimum requirements for Chase Better Banking in September and recently began to advertise them. Mr. Herz said posters hung throughout Chase's branches in the metropolitan area were not a reaction to Citicorp but part of an ongoing promotional effort.

Dime Bancorp, a $19.4 billion-asset thrift based in Manhattan, has been running newspaper and broadcast advertisements to promote its packaged account, called access checking.

The thrift offers a free one-year trial, after which the minimum balance jumps to $3,000 for checking or $5,000 for a combination of accounts. A spokesman said 48% of new customers this year have signed up for the account.

Dime is hoping to attract younger customers who might not have the high credit card balances or mortgages that would qualify them for the Citibank account, said David Totaro, director of marketing and communications.

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