PNC Bank has a long history of serving customers from its branch offices in the eastern U.S. But the bank is also available across the country thanks to its online banking platform, Virtual Wallet®.
The online banking industry is hotly competitive. How does a “hybrid” bank with one foot firmly planted in a brick-and-mortar business model and the other on the digital cutting edge stack up? Let’s take a look with our PNC Bank review.
PNC Bank Review
When it comes to Products & Services, PNC Bank offers a fine selection of checking and savings accounts. You’ll find several levels of checking accounts (some bearing a tiny bit of interest), as well as standard savings and money market accounts. There’s also a variety of CDs available at varying terms and rates. Speaking of Interest Rates, you won’t be particularly wowed by what PNC Bank has to offer. Rates are decent when compared to brick-and-mortar banks but fall far short of what you can earn at an online-only bank. Although you will find some Fees & Charges at PNC Bank, there are plenty of ways to have many of them waived. However, note that unless you have a Performance Select checking account (and live in PNC’s targeted region), you’ll have to pay fees for ATM use. We do give PNC Bank strong marks for its Website/App, Virtual Wallet. It’s a great way to check out what’s going on with your money. Finally, when it comes to Customer Service, we love that you can give them a call 24/7 or pop into any PNC Bank branch.
PNC: A Brief History
1845 was a long time ago. California belonged to Mexico. Texas was a country. Abraham Lincoln was a newlywed, and if he were reading a bank review after dark, it would have been by candlelight.
That spring, the Pittsburgh Trust and Savings Co. got off to a rocky start. A fire destroyed a third of Pittsburgh, and it took seven years before the new bank actually started doing business.
There were smoother times ahead. The bank grew, changed its name to First National Bank of Pittsburgh, then Pittsburgh National Bank, which by the mid 20th century was a leading subsidiary of Pittsburgh National Corp., or PNC.
In 1982, Pittsburgh National Corp. merged with another PNC, Philadelphia’s Provident National Corp., creating the framework for today’s PNC Bank.
Mergers and acquisitions over the past four-plus decades have expanded PNC Bank’s national presence. If you live between New York and Saint Louis or between Michigan and Miami, there’s a good chance PNC Bank has a branch near you.
What PNC Bank Offers Its Customers
As the nation’s sixth-largest bank by deposits and its fifth largest by number of branches, PNC Bank brings credibility, availability, and stability to the table.
Those are important words, and they alone may get PNC Bank onto your shortlist. But where you bank can impact your life every day, so let’s take a closer look at how PNC Bank works.
First, we’ll check out the bank’s checking and savings options, then take a closer look at Virtual Wallet, which combines accounts and services in a unique mobile interface.
PNC Bank Features
|Banking Account Types||Checking Accounts, Savings Accounts, CDs, Money Markets|
|Other Account Types||Credit Cards, Personal Loans, Student Loans, Auto Loans, Brokerage|
|Minimum Required Deposit to Open Account||$25|
|Number of Branches||2,600 in 19 States|
|ATM Network Size||9,000 in 19 States|
|App Availability||iOS, Android, and Mobile Optimized Website|
|Customer Service Types||Phone, Email, Twitter, Branch|
|Customer Service Hours||Phone: 24/7|
|Member FDIC||FDIC Certificate #6384|
|Routing Number / ABA Number||Varies by State|
PNC Bank Checking Accounts
For many of us, a checking account serves as a hub for our interactions with a bank. PNC Bank offers three different checking account options: Standard Checking, Performance Checking, and Performance Select Checking.
Let’s see how they compare on important issues such as fees, interest rates, and minimum balances.
All three PNC Bank checking accounts require a $25 minimum deposit to open the account. They all charge fees, but the fees are easy enough to waive:
- PNC Bank Standard Checking: The $7 monthly fee will be waived if the account receives $500 in qualifying direct deposits or maintains an average monthly balance of $500. The fee is also waived automatically if you’re 62 years old or older.
- PNC Bank Performance Checking: The $15 monthly fee will be waived with $2,000 in qualifying direct deposits or an average monthly balance of $2,000, or $10,000 in combined PNC accounts/investments.
- PNC Bank Performance Select Checking: The $25 monthly fee will be waived with $5,000 in qualifying direct deposits or an average monthly balance of $5,000 in linked accounts, or $25,000 in combined PNC accounts/investments.
Alternatively, you can check out one of the many fee-free online checking accounts available today.
What is a qualifying direct deposit?
For a direct deposit to count toward waiving your monthly fee, it must be qualified. Qualified direct deposits come from your employer or another outside organization. Account transfers or deposits made through an ATM, mobile app, or an online transfer do not qualify. So if you earn more than $500 a month and your employer pays you via direct deposit, you won’t pay a monthly fee for a PNC Bank Standard Checking account.
PNC Bank Checking Overdraft Fees and Solutions
PNC Bank charges $36 up to four times per day for each overdraft. In addition, the bank will also charge $7 each time your account remains overdrawn for five or more consecutive days. This fee caps out at $98.
To help avoid overdrafts, PNC Bank allows automatic transfers from:
- Another PNC Bank checking account
- A PNC Bank savings or money market account
- A PNC Bank-issued credit card
- A personal line of credit
Connecting a savings or another checking account to prevent overdraft charges avoids being charged interest, which varies from state to state but is usually around 10 percent for overdraft lines of credit.
Using a credit card to cover overdrafts may result in even higher interest charges. However, you can also inadvertently diminish your savings by using it to cover overdraft charges.
Wherever the money comes from, PNC Bank will charge $10 for each transfer to cover an overdraft.
Of course, the best solution is to avoid overdrafting your account in the first place. If that’s an issue for you, you can probably find a different bank with lower overdraft charges. Or PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet can help you visualize your resources and avoid overspending. We’ll dig deeper into that service a little later.
Earning Cash With Your Checking Account
Interest: Like a lot of other banks, PNC Bank will pay interest on your checking account balance, but only if you have a PNC Performance or Performance Select checking account with a balance of at least $2,000.
Interest rates in PNC Bank’s checking accounts vary from state to state, but they tend to be minuscule. If you already keep a large balance in checking, you may as well be earning something on it by using an interest-bearing checking account at a bank such as Ally.
However, if you’re actively trying to earn interest on your balance, look into a money market savings account or an online high-yield savings account where you’ll do much better.
People who keep a smaller balance but use their checking accounts for day-to-day expenses can earn cash back through PNC Purchase Payback, a rewards program connected to a PNC Bank debit card.
As an account holder, you can choose from a variety of rewards offers online. Using your debit card to take advantage of the offer activates the cash-back reward, which appears in your account like an electronic deposit.
The key here is to find offers that match the way you already spend your money. If you stop at, say, Starbucks three mornings a week, activate that offer and start generating a little passive income on your habit.
The Perks of Having a Preferred or Select Checking Account
Most big national banks like PNC Bank offer checking accounts that have higher fees or require a higher minimum balance to avoid the fee. These accounts are usually associated with words such as “preferred” or “select.”
Should you have that kind of account?
If you can’t maintain the minimum balance, it’s a no-brainer: Stick with the basic checking that charges lower fees or requires the lowest minimum balance to waive the fee.
But if you can maintain a healthy checking account balance, how can a higher-level account pay off?
With PNC Bank’s Performance Select Checking, you’d get:
- No fees for using non-PNC ATMs and fee reimbursement for other banks’ surcharge fees
- $100 annual discount on a safe deposit box
- Free cashier’s checks
- Enrollment in identity theft prevention programs
- Higher rewards point potential on bank-issued credit cards
PNC Bank ATM and Branch Access
If you use PNC Bank for checking, you’ll eventually need to use an ATM. With more than 9,000 ATMs and more than 2,600 physical branches, PNC Bank has an active physical presence in the 19 states it serves.
The bank specializes in placing ATMs in grocery stores and gas stations, too.
If you can’t find a PNC Bank ATM, the bank will charge you $3 per transaction. However, PNC will reimburse your non-PNC ATM fees for up to two transactions per statement period.
Note that if you’re a Performance Select customer, you won’t pay any charges for using non-PNC ATMs. In addition, the bank will reimburse unlimited non-PNC ATM fees.
PNC Bank has branches in the following states:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
If you don’t live in one of these states, you can still bank with PNC Bank online or through its mobile app. You can also link your PNC Bank account to a bank account that has a branch near you, which makes it easier to access your money.
But for many people, banking involves personal relationships that require a branch with employees nearby.
PNC Bank Savings Accounts
PNC Bank keeps it simple with savings accounts, offering only two options. But it makes up for that with a wide variety of CD products.
First, here’s how the regular savings accounts work:
- PNC Standard Savings: This account requires $25 to open and charges $5 a month unless you keep an average balance of $300, set up an auto-transfer of at least $25 a month from another PNC Bank account, or are younger than 18 years old.
- PNC “S” Is for Savings: This account charges a $5 monthly fee unless you keep an average balance of $300 or set up at least $25 in incoming transfers from another PNC Bank account each month. This account is designed specifically for children. It includes resources such as Sesame Street characters to encourage kids to save more money.
Interest Rates on Savings Accounts
Savings rates at PNC Bank tend to be even lower than the national average, which doesn’t come close to the rates you could get at an online-only bank that specializes in high-yield savings accounts.
Standard Savings account holders with a balance above $2,500 can earn an interest rate that comes closer to the national average. But chances are you won’t be opening a PNC Bank account if your primary goal is to earn interest on your savings.
So let’s move on to money markets and certificates of deposit (CDs), which can earn you a higher interest rate.
PNC Bank Money Market Accounts
PNC Bank also offers money market savings accounts. These accounts let you earn a little more interest than a standard savings account but are easy to access. This makes them a great choice for your emergency fund.
The trade-off is that you usually need to deposit more money than with a typical savings account. At PNC Bank, that amount is $100.
Currently, the PNC Bank money market rate is below that of Ally Bank, but you can boost your rate by linking your account with a Performance Select checking account and keeping a balance of $100,000 or more.
PNC Bank CDs
At just about any bank you can maximize your interest rates by committing to keeping your money in the bank for a specific period of time. You make this commitment by buying a CD.
Usually, the longer the commitment, the higher your interest rate.
Unlike most banks, PNC Bank offers a 10-year CD. If you can set aside $1,000 or more for 10 years, it can grow at a rate that’s closer to a current high-yield savings rate.
PNC Bank offers tiered CDs, which means its highest rates go to the most expensive CDs. However, the bank will occasionally offer specials that boost the rate of a shorter-term deposit.
If you’re looking for a specific kind of CD, you may find it in PNC Bank’s variety of options:
- Fixed Rate: This is a basic CD with a guaranteed rate and automated renewal. You’ll need at least $5,000 (seven to 89 days) or $1,000 (90 days to 10 years) to buy-in. You’ll be charged for accessing your money prior to its maturity date.
- Ready Access: If the commitment of a longer-term CD bothers you, check out PNC Bank’s Ready Access CD, which allows full liquidity after seven calendar days. You’ll earn at a lower interest rate, and the terms range from three to 12 months. The minimum deposit is $1,000.
- Callable: With a PNC Bank Callable CD, you can get a higher rate on a three- or five-year CD of at least $10,000 by giving the bank a little more control. If you have a Callable CD, the bank can expedite the maturity of the CD (after year one of a three-year CD and after year two of a five-year CD). If the bank “calls” the CD early, you can access the funds penalty-free for 10 days or leave the money alone and it will go into a new 12-month CD.
- Variable Rate: These 18-month CDs offer rates that are tied to the three-month Treasury Bill. If you’re worried that interest rates might increase right after you commit to a CD, this is a good option. If you think rates might decrease, a variable rate won’t work in your favor. You’ll need a minimum of $1,000 to buy this CD.
- Stepped Rate: These 36-month CDs offer rates that increase every six months and require a $2,500 minimum deposit. Before each scheduled rate increase, you can access the money penalty-free. This is a good option if you’re not entirely sure you can avoid accessing your money for a longer CD term but would still like a rate that’s higher than a six-month CD rate.
PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet
Savings rates, checking account fees, CD terms — these are all traditional ways of organizing your money, and traditional is good. It means banks have had decades or centuries of experience with the tools they’re using to manage your money.
But this is the smartphone era, so banks need new ways to help customers manage their resources.
PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet interface has been one of the banking industry’s leading innovations over the past decade.
Fundamentally, the bank still keeps your money in traditional places — checking, savings, etc. You still earn interest on savings and pay interest on what you borrow.
Virtual Wallet just makes it easier to visualize what you have, what you’re spending, and what you’re saving.
You can use Virtual Wallet on a computer or a mobile device. Features include:
- Integrating your bill schedule and online bill pay with your calendar
- Graphs such as the “Money Bar” that show your balances at a glance, including how much of your current balance is set aside for upcoming bills
- Graphic-based tools for setting up a budget and tracking spending
- Quick transfers between PNC Bank accounts
- Savings tools such as a wish list, reserve account (for short-term savings) and growth account (for long-term savings)
- Bonus rewards points on a PNC Bank-issued credit card
- The ability to send money via Zelle
PNC Bank account holders can set up Virtual Wallet for free. However, the fees (and fee waivers) for the checking accounts listed above still apply.
In addition, you may be charged a variable fee if you write paper checks. If you still use a checkbook, contact PNC Bank for information specific to your location.
Here’s one great exception — college students can use Virtual Wallet accounts for free as long as they’re enrolled at a partner university. This makes PNC a great option for many students.
Who can benefit from banking with PNC Bank:
- Customers who are looking for a single bank and aren’t focused on growing a long-term savings account
- Students and young adults who want an easy, mobile-friendly way to manage their monthly and longer-term budgets
- Customers who want a wide variety of CD options
- Customers who live in the bank’s 19 states or the District of Columbia and need frequent ATM access
Who should look elsewhere:
- Customers looking for the very best rates on a specific kind of account such as high-yield savings
- Customers looking for accounts that never charge monthly maintenance fees
The Bottom Line
However, PNC Bank does a lot of things really well, and if you’re looking for a full-service bank (and you live in one of the 19 states in which the bank has a physical presence), the bank is worth a closer look.
Not coincidentally, when you commit to PNC Bank by opening a variety of accounts, you’ll begin to tap into a greater potential for saving.
For example, multiple account holders don’t pay monthly fees and get discounts on a wide variety of services such as loan origination fees and cashier’s checks.