Another big bank has decided to stop offering free checking accounts. Like its peers, Bank of the West is now offering an entry level checking account that charges a monthly service fee unless certain requirements are met.

Taking the place of the former free checking account is Easy Checking, Bank of the West’s new basic checking account.

Easy Checking comes with an $8 monthly service fee when you sign up for electronic statements, or $10 if you receive paper statements.

There are three ways to avoid this monthly charge (any one of the following will do):

  • Maintain an average monthly balance of $1,000 or more
  • Receive a single direct deposit of $250 per month
  • Make ten (10) or more debit card purchases per month

According to a Bank of the West customer representative, the process of converting free checking accounts to Easy Checking accounts has already begun.

Another Casualty of Debit Card Swipe Fee Rules

For anyone who has already watched their free checking accounts disappear, the Easy Checking account appears fairly generic in terms of fee waiver requirements.

However, the option of avoiding the monthly fee with debit card purchases has become scarce in the banking industry since new debit card swipe fee rules slashed the ability for big banks ($10 billion or more in assets) to make significant profits off debit card interchange fees.

Previously, banks offered this option because the generated fees would compensate for the costs of account maintenance.

Soon after the rules were announced in December 2010, major banks have eliminated free checking accounts. The finalized rules went into effect in October 2011.

Many banks have mentioned that these changes were necessary to adapt to the new regulations, which appears to have finally impacted Bank of the West.

A Bank of the West spokesperson did not reply to a request for details and comment.

As of September 30, 2011, Bank of the West reported over $61.8 billion in total assets and over $42.6 billion in total deposits. Bank of the West touts a 3-star rating on its Bank Report Card.

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