‘Free’ business checking grows, survey finds

By Becky Yerak
Posted Sep. 1, 2010 at 1:07 p.m.

More than 90 percent of the nation’s biggest banks are offering free checking for businesses, up from 64 percent in 2009, according to a new  survey of 2,300 banks by Moebs Services.

“The Wall Street banks want small-business checking, and it shows in the substantial increase in offerings from 2009,” said Mike Moebs, economist and chief executive of the Lake Bluff-based  financial services data firm.

The percentage of community banks and credit unions offering free business checking has dropped, he said.

But Moebs said the big banks are using free business checking as a “carrot.”

Unlike regulations for consumer accounts, there are no federal or state advertising or disclosure requirements in business checking, he said.

So banks can say business checking is “free”, without disclosing that the accounts limit the number of transactions processed for free.

The median limit on all types of transactions for Wall Street and Main Street banks is 150 a month, the study found.

After that, financial institutions will charge a transaction fee, Moebs said.  Community banks and credit unions have a median charge of 25 cents per transaction when the limit is exceeded, while Wall Street Banks charge 50 cents.

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