How many banking customers would be willing to give up local branch access, if necessary, in order to avoid monthly account maintenance fees on checking accounts? That’s a question that could reshape the banking industry this year. While nearly all of the large banks are moving to monthly fees between $6 and $15 for checking accounts, hundreds of banks are committed to keeping a practical form of free checking. If one fourth of customers move their accounts to the free-checking banks, the declining customer base will force banks to close thousands of branch offices.
One small bank failed tonight: Oglethorpe Bank, its two offices in Brunswick and St. Simons Island, Georgia. The successor, Bank of the Ozarks, says it will keep both branch offices open, increasing its recently established presence in Georgia to 12 locations.