Free checking is back at TCF Bank after a two-year hiatus.

The bank's holding company, TCF Financial (TCF) of Wayzata, Minn., said Wednesday that following "multiple layers" of interviews and surveys with its customers, bank officials have decided to do away with monthly maintenance fees on its retail checking accounts.

TCF pioneered free checking in 1986, but eliminated it for certain customers in early 2010 in response to new regulations on overdraft fees that that threatened to eat into its fee income.

That rule, which prohibited banks from covering overdrafts without customers' permission, took effect in August 2010 and has since prompted many banks to eliminate free checking. Banks' fee income took an even bigger hit late last year when new rules that limited what large and regional banks could charge for debit card transactions went into effect.

The $17.8 billion-asset TCF had been charging a $9.95 per month maintenance fee for customers with average deposit balances of less than $500 or who don't have direct deposit. Its chairman and chief executive, William Cooper, said in a news release that it is re-implementing free checking because its surveys found that what customers want most is convenience and fewer fees.

"We listened and we're responding by delivering [customers] a product they deserve," Cooper said. "We pioneered Free Checking in 1986. It was the right product then and it is the right product now."

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