More Wells Fargo & Co. customers will be charged a monthly fee on checking accounts as the San Francisco company expands a pilot program aimed at generating more revenue from retail banking.

Starting this spring, the company will begin charging customers in six additional states a monthly $7 fee for its Essential Checking account unless those customers maintain a minimum balance or make monthly direct deposits, CNNMoney reported Thursday.

The bank eliminated free checking for new customers in July 2010, shortly before new regulations governing banks’ overdraft policies took effect. Last year it eliminated free checking for existing customers in some states, mostly in the western U.S.

Wells Fargo’s Chairman and Chief Executive John Stumpf warned in May that his company could possibly look to recoup revenue it would lose under the Dodd-Frank Act through additional fees on products. The company said it would lose $325 million in quarterly revenue from the cap on interchange fees that took effect Oct. 1.

Stumpf said the options included introducing a debit card carrying fee, implementing surcharges on checking accounts and raising minimum account balances. Wells Fargo abandoned plans in October to charge some customers $3 per month for using debit cards.

Many large financial institutions have eliminated their free checking accounts since Congress capped fees on debit transactions for banks with more than $10 billion of assets. Just 45% of noninterest checking accounts are free, down from 65% in 2010 and 76% in 2009, according to’s 2011 checking account survey.

Wells Fargo customers can avoid the $7 fee by maintaining a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or making at least $500 a month in direct deposits, CNNMoney reported. They can also reduce the fee by $2 by only receiving online statements.

The fee will appear on June statements after becoming effective May 4 in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Georgia and Delaware. The bank has operations in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia.

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