Are no-fee chequing accounts too good to be true?

Musicians and software distributors already use the no-fee model
Credit card tricks
Photograph by Jessica Darmanin

When it comes to saving money in this era of low interest rates, banking fees can be a big hindrance. But two U.S. companies are giving consumers the chance to pay nothing at all for a chequing account and a host of other web-based services. Bluebird, the latest offering from American Express and Wal-Mart, is offering a chequing account with online bill payment, ATM access and mobile depositing—all without annual or monthly fees. GoBank, owned by prepaid-debit-card provider Green Dot, has many of the same free services, though it’s in the midst of rolling out a pay-what-you-wish option, allowing customers to give between $0 and $9 a month at their discretion.

Critics say the pay-what-you-wish model isn’t sustainable and reads as a publicity stunt. But musicians, software distributors and even restaurants have all employed it successfully, so why not banks? With fees as low as $0, patrons have nothing to lose.