TD Bank — Washington’s 15th largest bank, with $1.9 billion in deposits — keeps its 45 branches in the region open until 8 p.m. during the week, and wanted to align its deposit services with its branch hours, said Brian Haier, head of retail banking and direct channels for TD Bank.
“We’ve made significant investments over the last year in our internal systems that make this the next logical step for us,” said Haier, who declined to provide the cost of extending the hours.
As consumers complain about fee increases and account changes, industry watchers say banks are ramping up efforts to retain and attract customers with enhanced services. Many, for instance, have begun aggressively marketing applications to bank by cellphone and other mobile devices.
“It’s no secret that customers have been less than thrilled with some of the changes going on in banks,” Carol Kaplan, a spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association. “So it makes sense for banks to look for ways to show customers that they’re getting added value, especially if it doesn’t cost too much to do it.”
Greg McBride, a Bankrate.com senior financial analyst, views service improvements as a natural part of competition between institutions.
“There is constantly a pace of innovation because of the intense competition for customers,” he said. “That’s constant and really separate from the whole fee trend. Fees have been going up for years. It’s just been kicked into overdrive in the last two years because of regulatory changes.”
Although TD Bank has built a reputation for extensive customer service, it did institute a $100 minimum balance on checking accounts in 2009. Customers who are unable to maintain the balance must pay a monthly maintenance fee of up to $4.95. The minimum balance requirement is below the industry standard of $500, but it is nonetheless a restriction on free checking.
Within the past month, Wells Fargo, Capital One and SunTrust Bank alerted customers to pending fee increases on checking accounts. Wells Fargo, for its part, is imposing a $5 service fee that can be waived if a customer holds at least $1,500 or electronically deposits paychecks of at least $500 into the account.
Banks argue that new regulations governing overdraft and debit-card transaction fees are putting pressure on revenue, which is necessitating fee increases.
Ratings agency Standards & Poor’s estimates that capped debit-card transaction fees will cost banks $7 billion a year, about 1.5 percent of total bank revenue in 2011. The agency anticipates that banks will continue introducing new service and product fees to offset the loss.
Outside the TD Bank branch at L and 15th streets NW, Tien Tran, 31, was happy to learn that his bank of four years is extending its deposit hours.
“When you’re working a second shift, it can be hard to make it to the bank in time,” said Tran, a waiter at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington.