Little TD Banknorth Starts Something Big: No ATM Fees

One of life's little annoyances is the practice of banks charging for ATM withdrawals when you are not their customer. It will add up to an estimated $4.2 billion in fees this year. So when tiny TD Banknorth was looking for a sure way to build name recognition and new customers in some of the most competitive banking markets in the country, it turned to what many consumers view as the ultimate come-on in banking: totally free checking plus a rebate of ATM fees charged by other banks.

Within six months, TD Banknorth will decide whether to roll out its "Bank Freely" ATM card program to all 1.5 million customers in the Northeast, says Thomas J. Dyck, executive vice president and director of marketing.

The Portland, Maine-based bank piloted its no-fee ATM program in June after acquiring Hudson United Bank, which operated some 200 retail branches in metro New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

According to Dyck, early results from the pilot indicate that it is working beyond the bank's expectations.



"Bank Freely" caught more than customers' attention. Competitor PNC Bank launched a similar free ATM program for its customers in August. PNC requires its customers to maintain a $2,500 minimum balance. There is no minimum balance requirement at TD Banknorth.

TD Banknorth bulked up on ads to promote its name and its "Bank Freely" concept. The estimated $30 million-plus campaign includes print, television, outdoor and online advertising, as well as a grassroots effort. Dyck noted that the amount spent on advertising and promotion for the pilot exceeded its previous spending in some categories 50 times over, particularly on the Internet. Via of Portland, Maine is agency of record for TD Banknorth.

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