Comerica Inc. has introduced two checking accounts that offer attractive interest rates to customers who agree never to set foot inside a branch.
While Comerica is just the latest bank company trying to persuade people to do their banking outside of branches, it says it is the only one that has created a division - called AccessOne Banksystem - to distinguish its new accounts. The company said customers who choose AccessOne accounts will not be allowed to use Comerica branches.
Those who exclusively use automated teller machines, telephones, or mail for all banking transactions will be offered rates up to 1.5 percentage points higher on money market funds and up to 0.5 percentage point higher on certificates of deposit than regular Comerica customers. The branchless customers will also be eligible for discounts ranging from 0.5 to 2 percentage points on auto, home equity, and credit card loan rates.
AccessOne accounts offer free checks, free use of telephone bankers, and postage-paid envelopes for transactions. They charge monthly fees, however, of $4.50 to $6.50. Unlimited ATM use boosts the monthly fee to $9.50 a month on either account.
The $35 billion-asset Comerica said it introduced the program last week in its headquarters city of Detroit and in southeastern Michigan. The bank hopes to offer the accounts statewide by Sept. 30.
Though analysts view the products as strictly a cost-saving move, Mark Shobe, president of AccessOne, said he's trying to attract new customers. Mr. Shobe said Comerica, historically a business lender, began to discuss ways a year ago to attract more retail customers.
"This is an extension of our drive to get more consumer accounts," Mr. Shobe said. "We're not just trying to migrate people away from the branches."
Indeed, First Chicago NBD Corp., which recently rescinded its unpopular $3 teller fee on all but one checking account, has said its most popular checking product is one that induces customers to do all banking outside branches.
Mr. Shobe said he believes customers will pay for the convenience of not using a branch. As an incentive, Comerica will waive AccessOne fees for the first six months for customers who sign up through June 30.
Michael Moran, a Roney & Co. analyst in Detroit, said pricing could be an important component of the accounts' success. "My interpretation is, Comerica wants to be adequately compensated for its services," he said.