TD Banknorth, which has a number of branches in Connecticut – including this one in Southington – is hoping its “No ATM Fees” card will attract new customers.

They come as high as $3 these days and are a headache for consumers across the country, but soon ATM fees will be a thing of the past for some TD Banknorth customers in several Northeastern states, including Connecticut.

The bank, which recently acquired branches in Connecticut, is seeking to expand its market share by luring customers to use accounts that include a “No ATM Fees” card. The bank announced the new card on June 1.

The number of people who have enrolled was not available from the branches as of press time, but according to John Patrick, president and chief executive officer of Banknorth Connecticut, many people are planning to sign up for an account.

“So far, the response has been good,” he said.

Under the plan, Portland, Maine-based TD Banknorth customers in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Metro New York markets will be able to get the card. It is a part of the bank’s “Bank Freely” program. TD Banknorth will refund any fee charged by any bank in the world when customers use the card. The new card is available to all new and existing customers in the four markets, and will provide for refunds for unlimited transactions.

At least one other Connecticut bank – Middletown-based Liberty Bank – has launched a similar product. The bank’s “Break Free” checking account refunds Liberty customers for any ATM fees they incur while using another bank’s ATM.

The bank analyzed the potential costs of the program, but executives believe the revenue from new accounts will offset the refunds.

“We believe we will recoup that cost with the new accounts,” Patrick said.

The idea is bound to be expensive, according to John Carusone, president of the Hartford-based Bank Analysis Center, but the strategy will competitively differentiate TD Banknorth in an area where it is not well known.

“I think it’s an innovative and aggressive approach to buying market share,” Carusone said.

“Our No ATM Fees card is about as simple and straightforward as you can get,” said Thomas J. Dyck, executive vice president and director of marketing for TD Banknorth, in a prepared statement. “The card is available with any current or new TD Banknorth checking account in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Metro New York – no minimum balance required. You can use the card at any ATM on the planet, and TD Banknorth will rebate any surcharges from other banks. Customers simply have to check their monthly account statement to see what they saved in rebated ATM fees.”

Bank executives hope the card will prompt many consumers to switch to TD Banknorth, Patrick said.

“We are growing significantly in Connecticut,” he said.

But the Connecticut market – and the others where the card is available – are very competitive, Patrick said. The card provides a way to compete.

‘Seamless’ Program

TD Banknorth conducted a survey to see what it would take to get people to switch banks, and the issue of ATM fees kept coming up, Patrick said. Other banks have similar programs, but usually are only for a limited number of transactions, or require customers to bring receipts into the bank before being reimbursed.

“Ours will be seamless to the customer,” Patrick said.

Patrick did not speculate whether other banks will follow suit, but said he is glad that TD Banknorth is one of the first to refund fees on unlimited transactions.

“It’s nice to be the first one in the market to do that,” he said.

Carusone, however, said he expects other banks to follow suit now that two banks with Connecticut branches are offering ATM refunds.

“Our research showed that customers want to be freed from the hassles of banking and the worries of managing their money,” Dyck said. “Their concerns hit home to us and reflected many of the qualities that TD Banknorth strives for, such as keeping things fast and easy, and providing simple accounts that are easy to understand and don’t have a lot of fine print.”

According to, Americans will pay an estimated $4.2 billion in fees charged by other banks for ATM withdrawals in 2006.

The bank is promoting the program with a significant marketing campaign. It is advertising through newspapers, radio, television, billboards and bus wraps. The bank also has hired people to spread the word out on the streets, giving out free newspapers and Starbucks gift certificates.

TD Banknorth has adopted the Bank Freely tagline as part of its logo and brand positioning in its Connecticut and new mid-Atlantic markets.

“TD Banknorth’s recent acquisition of more than 200 branches in the mid-Atlantic and Connecticut provided the perfect opportunity for us to develop this new campaign and hassle-free No ATM Fees card,” said Dyck. “We knew coming into these highly competitive markets would require a different strategy for TD Banknorth, so we did our homework, starting with consumer and competitive research. Findings from the research guided us in the development of the Bank Freely positioning, as well as the No ATM Fees card offer.”