California’s largest credit union, Golden 1, continues promoting its free checking account. During March, 2012, a simple two-panel marketing flyer or buckslip is being distributed inside the branches in brochure holders located at the teller windows. While this is great news, the words “FREE CHECKING’’ are the smallest words on the front of the flyer as you can see below. And the words “Zero,” “Zip,” and “Zilch,” are not carried forward and explained on the back panel. This particular financial institution has, for years, had its own in-house creative agency which accounts for much of its mediocre creative like the piece shown here. It is very important that banks and credit unions offering free checking continue aggressively marketing the account through multiple marketing channels.
This page-dominant ad for free checking being offered by the Nebraska Bank of Commerce appeared in the January 15, 2012 edition of the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper. The downside to this free checking ad is that it contains what could be mistaken as three competing headlines. The key point to be made with this ad is that “NBC Still Offers Free Checking.” At least this bank, unlike so many today, continues using the name “Free Checking Account” versus less impactful names like Value Checking and Regular Checking. One would hope that more banks and credit unions would spend marketing dollars promoting Free Checking online, in the newspaper, in outdoor, and using radio spots.
Talk about confusing the consumer. Ally Bank offers a free checking account that pays interest – yes, pays interest. The problem is that it failed to name its account Ally Free Checking. Yet, we see in this magazine ad in the February 24, 2012 issue of The Week magazine, Ally manages to use the powerful marketing word “Free” in the headline. Why not simply call it Free Checking or Ally Bank Free Checking or Ally Free Checking? What would possess a bank to offer free checking while naming it something else?
Free checking is labeled “free” for one simple reason – the word “free” is the single most powerful word used in marketing.
Consumers love acquiring something of value that’s free.
The free checking account as we know it today was first introduced in 1982. At the time, it was launched as Totally Free Checking and later shortened to Free Checking by many of the banks and credit unions offering the account.
At the time, there were no regulations covering the use of the word “free” to describe a checking account.
Over the next eight years, more and more banks and some credit unions jumped on the free checking bandwagon. Along the way, some banks began promoting their accounts as “free” even though the consumers had to keep a minimum balance. Others required direct deposit. These perceived abuses prompted the federal government to include the free checking account in its Regulation DD Truth in Savings Act enacted in December, 1991.
The new regulations went into effect on June 21, 1993.
The new rules governing free checking appear in Section 230.8 labeled “Advertising.”
It reads: “An advertisement shall not refer to or describe an account as ‘free’ or ‘no cost’ (or contain a similar term) if any maintenance or activity fee may be imposed in the account. For purposes of determining whether a checking account can be advertised as ‘free’ or ‘no cost,’ maintenance and activity fees include:
- “Any fee imposed if a minimum balance requirement is not met, or if the member exceeds a specified number of transactions.
- “Transaction and service fees that members reasonably expect to be imposed on an account on a regular basis.
- “A flat fee, such as a monthly service fee.
- “Fees imposed to deposit, withdrawal, or transfer funds, including per-check or per-transaction charges (for example, $.25 for each withdrawal, whether by checking or in person).”
It then goes on to list other fees that are not considered maintenance or activity fees like check printing fees and balance inquiry fees.
Oddly, the new regulation failed to definitively cover whether or not requiring direct deposit eliminates the ability to label an account as free.
Still, the new Truth in Savings law made it crystal clear that for an account to be called “free” it must be free of both a monthly service fee and a minimum balance requirement.
But a lot has happened since the rules went into effect 17 years ago. An avalanche of new technology has dramatically changed the way people do their banking while the economy has taken consumers on a violent rollercoaster ride – which is still moving in unpredictable ups and downs.
In the last 11 years we’ve experienced both the expansion and bursting of the tech stock bubble and, more recently, the housing bubble. We barely escaped a world-wide economic crash while our economic future is still very uncertain.
With record high unemployment, jobs continuing to move overseas, housing prices dropping like a rock, consumers experiencing both deflation and inflation at the same time, record low interest being paid on savings, health care and education costs soaring, and many workers being under-employed, more than ever consumers both need and desire free checking.
A free checking account has much more value to many consumers today than it did when it was first aggressively marketed throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s.
Now is definitely the wrong time to eliminate one of the most valued bank accounts ever offered. And based on the new stealth free checking accounts from BofA and Chase, senior management at both banks seem to agree.
What we are witnessing today in consumers’ purchase decision making is a new frugality which has ushered in a rush to value.
Continue Reading at Acton Marketing…
Free Checking Account Names
If your bank or credit union is considering introducing a free checking account, or renaming an existing account, this list of free checking account names may come in handy.
Since 2007, we’ve been able to identify approximately 90 variations for naming a Free Checking account. The requirement for being on this list is that the word “Free” must appear in the account name.
Just because the name you wish to use is on this list doesn’t mean you can’t use it in your market area. Some of these accounts have been discontinued since being added to the list. One purpose of this list is to provide you with ideas for naming your Free Checking account.
From a branding and marketing perspective, we believe the most effective free checking account name is [Bank Name] Free Checking. For example: Generic Bank Free Checking.
The Master List of Free Checking Account Names:
Absolutely Free Checking
Always Free Checking
America’s Best Free Checking!
ATM Anywhere Free Checking
[Bank Name] Free Checking (e.g., Valley FREE Checking)
Best Free Checking
Better Free Checking
Better Than Free Checking
Beyond Free Checking
Big Money Free Checking
Breakfree! College Student Checking
Build-to-Order Free Checking
Chase Free CheckingSM with Direct Deposit
Community Free Checking
Completely Free Checking
Customer First Free Checking
Direct Free Interest Checking
Easy Free Interest Checking
Express Free Checking
1st Free Checking
Fabulous 50 Free Interest Checking
Fantastic 50+ Free Interest Checking
Fee Free Checking
First Class Free Checking
flat out free checking
Forever Free Checking
Free Business Checking
Free Cash Back Checking
Free Checking 2.0
Free Checking for Life
Free Checking Plus
Free Checking with Extras
Free Checking with Cash Back Option
Free Checking with Free Checks Option
Free Checking with Interest
Free Checking with NO ATM Fees Option
Free Checking with Rewards
Free e-Power Checking
Free For All
Free For Life! Checking
Free For You Checking
Free Green Checking
Free Hometown Rewards Checking
Free Interest Checking
Free Key Rewards Checking
Free Personal Checking
Free Prestige Plus Checking
Free Prime Time Checking
Free Rewards Checking
Free Senior Checking
Free! Smart Money Checking
Free Student Checking
Free Super Interest Checking
Free With Direct Deposit Checking
Free Youth Checking
Freedom 50 Checking
Freedom Plus Checking
FreeNet Checking Account
50+ Free Interest Checking
50+ Gold Free Checking
Gold Free Checking
[Bank name] Freedom Checking (for high school students only)
High Interest Free Checking
Home Free Checking
Lifetime Free Checking
Lion Power Free Checking
More Than Free Checking
My Free Checking
OPT Free Checking
Personal Free Checking
Positively Free Checking
Really Free Checking
Really! Free Checking
Senior Free Checking
Simply Free Checking
Smart Free Checking
Standard Carefree Checking
Stress Free Checking
Totally Free Business Checking
Totally Free Checking
Totally Free Checking PLUS
Truly FREE Checking
VIP Free Interest Checking
Virtually Free Checking
NOTE: If you are aware of a Free Checking account name that does not appear on this list, fill out this form:
[contact-form-7 id=”340″ title=”Contact”]