PNC’s Foundation Checking has been a bargain option for consumers who’ve had trouble with banks in the past – but that won’t be the case for long. The Pittsburgh-based bank will introduce a monthly fee once the new year comes around.

PNC customers with Foundation Checking accounts will soon be paying for what has previously been free – but has quite expensive at other banks.

Starting January 1, 2012, PNC (NYSE: PNC) will charge a $5 monthly service fee on Foundation Checking accounts – and there is no way to waive it. At the moment, the account have no minimum balance requirement or monthly fee.

The Foundation Checking account is PNC’s version of what is commonly known as a “second chance” checking account. These accounts cater to consumers who have negative marks on their ChexSystems report, the banking equivalent of a credit report, which prevents them from open traditional bank accounts.

Common infringements resulting in a bad record include negative balances and frequent incidents of insufficient funds.

According to a PNC Bank customer representative, Foundation Checking is only available at certain branches and accountholders are required to take a workshop on managing their checking accounts.

The addition of the $5 monthly fee will come three months after PNC stopped rewarding PNC points and refunding non-PNC Bank ATM fees in September (announced in March).

Late to the Game

PNC’s decision to begin charging for its second chance checking account is relatively delayed as similar offerings at other large U.S. banks already come with hefty fees.

Consumers with tarnished banking histories usually have to pay fees because banks have less faith in them but still offer an opportunity to have a bank account (hence the “second chance”).

Second chance checking accounts often do not get paper checks so they cannot incur overdraft charges.

BBVA Compass’ second chance checking account has a $13.95 monthly fee. Wells Fargo’s Opportunity Checking account has an avoidable $10 monthly fee with a $1,000 minimum daily balance, $25 automatic transfer to savings, automatic payment to a Wells Fargo loan or line of credit, or direct deposit of $100.

From an industry perspective, waiting this long to impose a fee was a nice gesture but the individual customer would surely protest the upcoming fee.

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