Harris Bank curbs free checking

By Becky Yerak
Posted April 6 at 9:20 a.m.

Harris, the Chicago market’s third-biggest bank, is making it tougher for depositors to qualify for free checking.

Following in the footsteps of market share leaders Chase and Bank of America, Harris has become the latest bank to make consumers jump through more hoops if they want to keep free checking. Until recently, the U.S. unit of Canada’s BMO Financial had a free checking account with no monthly fees and no minimum balance or direct-deposit requirements.

According to its Web site, Harris Everyday Checking — the bank’s basic checking account — now requires a minimum opening deposit of $100. Depositors will avoid a $7 monthly maintenance fee only if at least one of four conditions are met: there’s an “incoming external deposit” of at least $500; the average daily balance is at least $1,000; the account holder is a college student; or if the account is linked to other Harris accounts.

The changes apply to new accounts opened on or after April 3.

A Harris spokesman said the changes were made after an “ongoing review of changes in the marketplace,” including consulting its customers.

“We recently launched new personal checking and savings accounts that will provide Harris customers with the best possible value while responsibly managing our business,” Harris spokesman Jim Kappel said.

Read more about the topics in this post:

Companies in this article


  1. 007 April 6 at 9:55 a.m.

    Too bad, I was looking at moving there. Oh well.

  2. vutterfly April 6 at 10:33 a.m.

    I strongly support local community banks. They still offer free checking and have said they do not plan on taking it away.

  3. bummer April 6 at 11:02 a.m.

    I take it the BMO guys were unhappy with their bonus last year.

  4. chicagotransplant April 6 at 11:27 a.m.

    Hope I don’t jinx myself, but my little credit union doesn’t charge me a dime in fees.

  5. not so bad April 6 at 11:31 a.m.

    the only requirement is that you make 1 deposit a month that is at least 500. It can be through a teller(seeing a teller is no fee on all accounts), through an ATM, or Direct Deposit. Unlike other banks that make you use a debit card so many times a month, or make you have an electronic statement.

  6. Not Surprised April 6 at 11:34 a.m.

    Unfortunatley, not surprised in the least. Harris knows nothing about customer service. They mislead their customers and look for options that only benefit themselves. They keep getting richer with little to no concern for their customers.

  7. LAB April 6 at 11:36 a.m.

    What else is new?

  8. Ginger April 6 at 11:37 a.m.

    And when my current bank decides to follow, I’ll switch! I refuse to pay those nasty greedy scoundrels one more red cent than I have to!

  9. SeraphimSarov April 6 at 11:43 a.m.

    I love my credit union…

  10. David April 6 at 11:53 a.m.

    Credit Unions and Community Banks are the ONLY way to go!

  11. Carelvys April 6 at 12:03 pm

    This blows, but what else is new. First rule of capitalism: pass on all costs to the consumer. Hmmmmm…….let’s see how much Harris’ CEO takes home at the end of 2011. All the monthly fees from this change in policy are mandated to go directly into his/her pocket!!!! :)

  12. RomanB April 6 at 12:05 pm

    Hey! This doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all! You’re still getting .02% on the money you have in there now. Just imagine the interest you’ll earn on the interest!

  13. Dave April 6 at 12:09 pm

    More hope and change. This is what happens when you over-regulate banks. Thanks Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.

  14. It's me - not you April 6 at 12:23 pm

    Dearest Harris,

    I’m writing to you today to inform you that our relationship is officially over. Gone are those special weekend trips to your deposit-envelope-less Addison/Halsted, and/or, Diversey/Broadway branches. No longer will I taste the nectar of financial freedom via harrisbank.com. My mailbox will truly miss all those monthly summaries I’ve tried (repeatedly) to opt out of getting.

    In a long-term relationship such as ours, if both parties aren’t happy and contributing then feelings of inequity could arise, where one party feels as though he/she/it is contributing MORE to the relationship than he/she/it is getting out of it.

    I’d like to go our separate ways on good terms however, as I’m certain to be quite involved with one of your friends (Chase, Bank of America, etc..).

    It’s me, it’s not you. Really.

  15. KK April 6 at 12:23 pm

    I just spoke with the bank. They said if you already have a free checking account, you won’t get charged with the $7 fee.

  16. JG April 6 at 12:30 pm

    Man, you people need to get a clue. All you need to avoid a fee is $1000 on average or have a linked account (savings, CD) with $1000 or perhaps have a job (crazy, I know) and deposit an entire $500 a month of your pay into Harris. If you don’t have any of these you are pathetic and spend too much money. Why would any bank want your business anyway if you can’t scrape together $1k?

  17. Bridget April 6 at 12:31 pm

    KK – I would ask for that in writing. I highly doubt that is what will actually be happening in reality; it’s contrary to the same requirements/stipulations that every other major bank has recently instiutted (and Harris isn’t looking to be any different, in this regard).

  18. Tim April 6 at 12:32 pm

    The banks are becoming greedier all of the time. The CEOs want to be sure their bonuses are not affected.

  19. Bridget April 6 at 12:42 pm

    Tim – actually, it’s more about maintaining their duty to the shareholders. All of last year’s financial institution ‘reform’ simply forces banks to find other means of making up lost revenue. CEOs don’t have the luxury of showing up at a shareholder’s meeting or on an analyst call and saying, “Well, the regulatory environment has changed, so we’re just going to be out a few billion dollars in fees…not much we can do about that.”

  20. John April 6 at 12:46 pm


    KK is correct, Harris is not changing current customers accounts, this will only impact new accounts opened at the Bank.

  21. Judy T April 6 at 3:35 pm

    The answer to this behavior is to move your accounts to a credit union. Leave the banks to starve.

  22. SouthLoopGirl April 6 at 4:47 pm

    I’ve had a Harris savings and checking account since 99, and financed two cars through them. Their customer service is superb!

    If you don’t have a job to earn at least $500 a month, then take your complaining elsewhere. Harris (nor any other bank) wants you. Seriously, who doesn’t make $500 a month? lol

  23. Mark H April 6 at 7:25 pm

    This doesn’t seem unacceptable to me — they are giving us a service, after all. Speaking of which, their customer service is 1000 times better than Chase…. I have accounts at both banks, although we’ll see how long I keep the Chase accounts.

  24. J.Q.Public April 6 at 8:53 pm

    I love it. People pay $100/month for an IPhone, $150/month for HD cable, but somehow $7/month for unlimited checks, debit card, online banking, a 24/7 call center, and branches in every suburb is just outrageous. Thank your congressmen and neighbor who bounces every/other check they write.

  25. 007 April 6 at 8:59 pm

    Not all of us, J.Q.Public. I get by just fine without cell phone and cable service.

    Maybe it’s just me, but a $1000 average daily balance on a NON-interest bearing account doesn’t seem like that great of an investment.

  26. Whatevs April 6 at 10:00 pm

    How dare that horrible bank charge for the services they provide you! They should just do it all for free! What a travesty…

  27. Jay D. Ligner April 6 at 10:13 pm

    The parent company of Harris just brought in a “hot shot” from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, (I believe), and he was instructed to screw every cent out of its customer base. The days of Hubert the friendly Harris lion are long gone and are missed. I guess that is why every time I visit a Harris branch, it is virtually empty of customers. I guess the next step will be to toss what used to be that free cup of coffee, in one’s face when they walk through the door.

  28. Rational April 7 at 12:24 a.m.

    So Harris has fallen in line with every other bank…ok? Anyone currently in a free product before the change WILL be grandfathered in. I called and asked that question when I got wind of the change. Banks DO provide a service for us. Should we expect those services to be completely free? Don’t blame the banks. Blame our government and the irresponsible banks that caused so many problems in 2008. THEY changed banking forever. The government continues to put its hands where they do not belong, thus forcing banks to find new ways to maintain, not increase, their income.

    Let’s all be a little bit more rational. Banks are a for profit business…period. I’m not saying I agree with everything every one of them does, but they do have a business to run. Not all banks are making money hand over fist. I’ve been a Harris customer for 20 years. They are one of the last banks out there with a focus on doing right for their customers, not just pushing products. They’ve proven this to me several times.

    Times they are a changing. Let’s think a little before we jump all over Harris. It’s tough times for everyone and every business.

  29. 007 April 7 at 8:08 a.m.

    No, I don’t expect a bank to provide services to be completly free, but they *are* earning interest on my non-interest-bearing account while it’s there waiting for checks to come through. Or even better, they’re earning interest on my money while paying me 0.10% if I’m lucky. And charging up the wazoo for check reorders.

    And you’re right, Rational, I blame irresponsible customers driving up costs first, and the government for not allowing the banks to charge the offenders the true cost and making them penalize ALL of us second. At the same time, is “falling in line with the rest of the banks” showing any sort of market leadership? Like Mama used to say, if everyone jumped off of a cliff, does that mean you should too? ;-)

  30. I hate beets April 7 at 10:44 pm

    My 10 year old recently complained about a salad bar that had beets on it. “I hate beets. I don’t like this salad bar” I told her to relax. Guess what, she had a great salad and just didn’t take any beets. The salad bar was not all that bad. She was being silly complaining about something that wouldn’t actually impact her anyway.

    Some of the posts seem like that too. Per their 800# Harris is grandfathering existing accounts until further notice-no fees to worry about. New people will qualify for waived fees with much less hoops than others.

    For those new customers who don’t have a $500 deposit for the account each month, they can decide to either pay the fee or go to a place without fees. Though heck, I figure all banks have to make money its just how open they are about it. PNC is keeping “free” checking but planning to charge other fees to still make money. For my money, I may move to Harris because my hometown bank seems to be in a bit of trouble financially.

    I just think there’s a lot of people reacting to the beets when they could still have a great salad. They should relax.