JPMorgan rolls out low-fee, checkless, no-overdraft accounts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Responding to calls for more bank services for low-income consumers, JPMorgan Chase & Co on Monday began offering checkless accounts with access to its mobile app, branches and ATMs for $4.95 a month and no minimum balance.

FILE PHOTO: A sign outside the headquarters of JP Morgan Chase & Co in New York, September 19, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The accounts come with debit cards, digital payments and free check cashing, but do not allow overdrafts.

Fees for overdrafts generated significant revenue for banks in the past. They have angered customers, brought down the wrath of politicians and discouraged people with low incomes from using banks.

Thasunda Duckett, chief executive of Chase Consumer Banking, said she hoped the new accounts will attract more low-income individuals and people who have never had bank accounts.

“The very first step in building financial health really starts with a bank account,” Duckett said.

The annual cost of $60 for the new accounts compares with charges of $200 to $500 a year at check cashing and money order services, she said.

Some 6.5 percent of U.S. households had no one with a bank account in 2017, according to a study by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Regulators have been pushing banks to do more to attract low-income customers. “Financial inclusion” has become a rallying cry for groups trying to help people out of poverty.

JPMorgan’s move comes after competitors Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc introduced similar accounts.

The new accounts mark an expansion of low-cost services because JPMorgan has 16,000 ATMs and 5,000 U.S. branches, second only to Wells Fargo & Co.

Since 2012, JPMorgan has offered a prepaid debit card with many banking services for $4.95 a month. But customers said that card, called Liquid, came up short. It could not be used for Uber taxi rides and car rentals, for example.

The new account, called Secure, offers those features.

Financial technology startups, such as Chime and SoFi, offer accounts with large networks of ATMs and without monthly fees. Chase’s fee, Duckett said, provides ATMs that accept checks and bankers to question in person.

The accounts will make “some money,” she said, but be less profitable than the bank’s other businesses.

Before the financial crisis, banks widely offered free checking, making money on overdrafts and merchant fees on debit cards. Post-crisis reforms slashed those fees and free accounts were cut back.

Now that banks have built digital tools for better-off customers, the services can be extended to people with lower incomes.

Reporting by David Henry in New York Additional reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Tom Brown