It’s not quite free checking, but it’s close. RBS Citizens Bank introduced a new checking account Monday aimed at drawing in more customers by limiting monthly fees.
The Providence-based bank’s new account waives the monthly maintenance fee of $9.99 if customers make one deposit of any amount every month. Consumers don’t have to keep a minimum balance in the account, but will be charged $3 for paper statements, plus a separate charge to buy checks.
This new checking account may help Citizens recoup some of the deposits it has lost in recent years during the financial crisis. In Massachusetts, Citizens Bank is the second-largest retail bank by deposits, but since 2011 its market share has declined about 2 percentage points.
Citizens decided against simply offering free checking to lure in new customers, because those accounts pose another problem for banks, said Brad Conner, the senior vice president of consumer banking at Citizens Bank.
The depositors attracted by a bank’s deal for a free checking account may just want to park their money in that account, meaning the bank gets little or no returns for the costs of maintaining the account. By requiring monthly deposits, Citizens wants to keep customers engaged in their finances and the bank, in the hope it will lead to more profitable business with them, such as car loans and mortgages.
“We want to be their bank and have a relationship with them,” Conner said.
The bank’s new chief executive Bruce Van Saun has indicated that he wants to expand Citizens’s auto and student loan business and wealth management services. Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns Citizens, plans to sell a 25 percent share of the bank later this year.