Another bank is recognizing consumers’ affinity for account customization by launching a program that offers add-ons to checking accounts. M&T Bank, which serves the Northeastern states and holds $80 billion in deposits, now allows checking customers to pay for additional services that — in the long run — could save them money.

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Jamie / Flickr source

M&T’s new checking-account customization program offers add-ons, including no M&T fee at non-M&T ATMs ($4.95), refund of non-M&T ATM fees ($4.95), no fee for overdraft protection transfers ($4.95), monthly credit scores ($2.99) and discounts on standard checks and a safe deposit box ($4.95).

The add-on fees are collected every month and they cannot be waived, unlike a checking account’s monthly maintenance fee.

However, according to an M&T spokesperson, checking customers can change their add-ons every month (except for the standard checks & safe deposit boxes add-on, which has an annual commitment) through online banking.

For customers with certain banking habits, the add-on program may provide savings.

As an example, customers who use a non-M&T ATM twice per month would have started to save money if they subscribed for the monthly add-on that waived the M&T fee for using a non-M&T ATM. (M&T charges $2.50 per non-M&T ATM withdrawal, $3 for Free Checking customers.)

Or a customer who is about to buy a house may sign on for the credit-score add-on (receive a FICO score, updated monthly) for six months. Similar programs directly from credit bureaus usually cost around $15 per month.

Customers who want several add-ons may be better off with one of M&T’s higher tier checking accounts, which has higher monthly account fees but offers a number of add-ons for no cost. So, since these monthly account fees can be waived when certain requirements are met, these customers can actually get the add-ons without paying the monthly add-on fees.

M&T Bank joins California-based Union Bank and Texas-based Frost Bank in offering checking accounts that come with optional upgrades — an up-and-coming trend, called à-la-carte banking, something we predicted will catch on in 2013.

If there is a desired feature or service, it’ll come as a cost — much like a smartphone plan.

Such a pricing model relies on consumers’ willingness to pay a fee as opposed to the traditional checking account model where the customer plays a flat, all-inclusive monthly fee for services that they wouldn’t typically be needed anyway.

As more bank adopt à-la-carte banking, two consumers with the same checking account could have vastly different features and monthly fees.

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