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TD Bank now charges noncustomers for coin counting

Consumer Reports News: November 17, 2010 06:08 AM

Every once in a while you see a company that can be held up as a bastion of pro-consumerism, one that makes its customers smile.

For years, one of those corporate standouts was the East Coast’s Commerce Bank. But since its 2008 takeover by Canadian interloper TD Bank, “America’s Most Convenient Bank,” hasn’t been quite so convenient.

First came the demise of the stellar Commerce Platinum Visa credit card, which had no fees, even if you exceeded your credit limit, and no interest on new purchases, even if you carried a balance, a rarity in the banking world.

Unfortunately, TD Bank has now put the kibosh on another outstanding Commerce-created perk.

Beginning Nov. 1, noncustomers who use the bank’s Penny Arcade coin counting machines are being charged a 6 percent fee. Until now, using the lightning-fast do-it-yourself machines was free no matter where you did your banking.

The free coin counting, the only one we knew of for noncustomers, was an especially good service for people without banks, those who are least likely to afford coin counting fees.

You can get a sense of the affection people have for the machines by reading the recent Digital Signage Insight blog, by David Weinfeld.

TD Bank’s decision came as a surprise for Merrick, Long Island, resident Sam Wachtel, who, not noticing the sign announcing the change, paid a $12 fee for counting his $200 in coins.“It would be nice if they still did it for free,” Wachtel lamented.

Ironically, the decision to impose the fee came just as the much-heralded Penny Arcade machines celebrated their 10th anniversary.

TD Bank spokeswoman Rebecca Acevedo told us the change furthers the bank’s “mission to produce long-term, profitable growth, while delivering value to our customers, employees, shareholders and communities.”

In other words, the bank wants more customers and more money. And it seems to be working.

As a result of the change, Acevedo said, the bank has seen “a good rate of people opening accounts.” And she said those who want to count their coins “don’t have to wait in line anymore.” 

Acevedo says the 6 percent coin-counting fee remains among the industry’s lowest. Those CoinStar machines in supermarkets and elsewhere take nearly 10 cents of every dollar they count, though they provide free coin counting if you accept a gift card or eCertificate to Amazon, JCPenney, or other retailers instead of cash. Acevedo said that TD Bank remains convenient, continuing its tradition of being open seven days a week.

Sure, there are those who will see no problem with TD Bank’s decision. Still, it’s reassuring when companies behave in ways that at least seem altruistic, even if there’s a marketing motive behind it. 

If you know of any bank or credit union that still has free coin-counting or other free services for noncustomers, please reply and let us know.

—Anthony Giorgianni

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