Free checking, a darling of retail banking since its introduction 15 years ago, is under pressure.
Resistance among regulators and consumers has intensified against the revenue model that for years has propped up free-checking: The charges levied against the relatively small share of customers who pay for account overdrafts and nonsufficient funds. As scrutiny increases over how free checking works, the business model that underlies what has become an industry standard may have to evolve.
Banks are reluctant to tinker with a product that has attracted waves of depositors over the years. But as forces including legislative action, new products and emerging competition begin to work against the profit model for free checking, a rising number are questioning its future.