Fifth Third tests new checking products

One of the region’s biggest banks is testing a new lineup of checking accounts in the Cincinnati-Dayton-Springfield area that give customers more benefits the more they bank with Fifth Third.

Fifth Third Bancorp introduced in June five types of checking accounts, said Mike Butera, head of retail banking in this region.These five accounts could ultimately replace the more than 20 different checking accounts the bank currently offers.

Big banks this year have been responding to reduced fee income, low loan growth and low interest rates that squeeze their revenues by making changes to checking and savings accounts. Fifth Third and U.S. Bancorp made changes earlier this year to their overdraft charges. Area banks are aggressively competing for new customers and more space in their customers’ wallets.

“Things have changed a lot in banking over the last two to three years, so given that, the customers’ demands and desires and needs have also changed,” Butera said. “We think the product set is more aligned with today’s customers’ needs, so then in theory, this will resonate better with customers, which will drive more customers and it’ll drive deeper relationships because customers will see these products as better meeting their needs than the old lineup.”

Existing customers have not been automatically converted to one of the new accounts, but tellers and personal bankers at a local branch will talk to them about the accounts. New customers must select one of the five accounts.

Butera said there is no deadline for the end of the pilot time period.

The most basic checking account being tested is called “eAccess.” It offers a debit card, online banking and bill pay, and mobile banking. It does not include checks or paper statements. There are no monthly fees, but it requires monthly deposits totaling $500 or more, all according to the bank’s website.

The most involved account is “preferred” checking. It offers financial support, high yield interest, identity alerts and free use of up to 10 non-Fifth Third ATMs a month. However, to waive a $25 monthly service charge, it requires a minimum $100,000 in deposits a month in checking or investment accounts.

“The point being in our older product set, before we went to this new one, there wasn’t as much holistic look at a customer,” Butera said.“There’s a lot more tie-in with all the products we offer as opposed to just looking at singularly as a checking account.”

Fifth Third is the largest bank by deposits of approximately $2.4 billion in the Dayton metro, the eighth largest by deposits of $67 million in the Springfield metro, and second largest by deposits of $18.6 billion in the Cincinnati metro, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.