ACCOUNTS for EVERYONE by ProQuest

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Nine banks are participating in an FDIC experiment to find out whether they can offer low-fee, all-electronic checking and savings accounts to the underserved and still break even. The participants -- mainly community banks but also Citibank and ING Direct -- launched accounts in January based on a template developed by the FDIC. The intent of the yearlong pilot program is to determine whether banks can afford to offer accounts that charge low monthly fees -- but no overdraft or nonsufficient funds fees -- to customers who may have had trouble keeping a checking account solvent, says Sherrie Rhine, a senior economist with the FDIC Division of Insurance and Research. First State Bank in Union City, TN, is a large community bank that the FDIC encouraged to apply for the pilot program because the $1.5 billion-asset bank has offered checking accounts into which people could get their tax returns deposited automatically, says Barry Matthews, VP of community relations and business development.

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