M & T seems to have a reputation for high service charges, but I am a BASIC customer with basic needs, so I've learned how to keep my checking free, and avoid senseless charges.
First of all, let me point out some of the service fees. Checking accounts will cost you $4.00 a month -- which is pretty competitive actually for my area (Northeast PA) unless you maintain a $500 balance OR $500 in direct deposits (*my* choice, and I'll explain more about that later). They offer other plans that aren't so basic, and the features and benefits vary from plan to plan. You will surely find one that suits your needs, including some interest earning checking accounts.
They also have a couple of saving account plans, both of which require a minimum balance so you can avoid paying a service fee.
*My* checking account is the Direct Checking, meaning direct deposit checking, and this has many benefits. The day my husbands check gets deposited into our account (twice a month), I just call their 800 number to hear an automated message of the amount. As long as my deposits are $500 or over in a month, my checking is FREE! And I don't have to wait in lines or sit in the drive thru waiting to cash our check. If I need cash, I just use my Check Card (I will explain more about this beauty shortly) or use an ATM. There are no fees for using an M&T ATM, and you get two free uses of other ATMs per month. I have never gone over my 2 use limit, so this suits me perfectly.
They give you a free Check Card with a Visa logo on it with your checking account (which used to be just an ATM card). You use this card at ATMs or at any place of business that accepts Visa. This has virtually replaced my use for checks, and I never have that awkward "I can't believe I ran out of checks" moment at the register. There is a 35¢ fee if you tell the clerk you want to use this card as your debit card. If you choose credit card as a payment instead, there is no fee, and it will simply deduct from your checking account as if you had chosen debit card. I realized this by mistake when I was viewing my checking statement and spotted a few 35¢ charges. I phoned the bank to ask why, and when she offered her advice telling me to choose credit card, I told her that I was quite surprised by all the charges, and asked if she could credit me them -- and she did! :)
I also save money by ordering checks from other companies. In my Sunday paper, there is always an ad for ordering checks, and I always get a better deal through any of these companies rather than pay the higher rates with the bank.
I have needed their customer service and/or asked tellers to help me with my accounts now and then, but I have never been charged for it. I understand they will charge you if you go over a certain limit, but I have never exceeded that limit. They have a toll free customer service number and I have always had excellent and courteous service and help from them.
So that is the extent of my needs from a bank. M&T meets all of them, and there is never a charge for any of them. All it took was changing banks about 14 times ;-) before I found the one that was right for me. If they ever start charging fees for direct deposit checking, I'm sure it will be a minimal one, one that will be competitive with other banks.
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