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FirstMerit Bank

Is This Your Business?
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LAST UPDATED: April 6th, 2021

FirstMerit Bank’s oldest branch started out as Old Phoenix National Bank in Medina, Ohio and has been in business since 1845. The next 150 years consisted of Old Phoenix merging with other banks, finally becoming FirstMerit Corporation in 1996 after uniting six subsidiary Ohio banks, forming what is known today as FirstMerit Bank. Asset-wise, FirstMerit is today’s 28th largest commercial bank in the United States. Headquartered in Akron, Ohio, FirstMerit Corporation is a $25.1 billion multiple financial services company with 384 banking offices and 412 ATM locations in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Pennsylvania.


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The Good

  • Features and benefits
  • Customized debit cards
  • Text banking

Features and Benefits

FirstMerits' premier feature is their Reality brand personal accounts-the first being its Reality Checking Account. For people on a budget or just seeking low-cost banking, this account delivers with no minimum balance requirements or monthly maintenance fee. Other account features include: Features & Benefits  
  • Minimum opening deposit of $50
  • Free online banking and bill pay
  • Free mobile banking and alerts
  • Free paperless statements
  • Enroll in MeritRewards
Additional Features
  • Enjoy the convenience of direct deposit
  • Overdraft protection  available by linking FirstMerit savings account and/or a FirstMerit MasterCard® credit card (subject to credit approval)
The second premier feature at FirstMerit Savings Bank is their Statement Savings Account. This account doesn't cost much to open and maintain. Features & Benefits This low-cost account is designed for individuals looking for a basic account to begin reaching their savings goals. Features & Benefits
  • Minimum opening deposit $50
  • Monthly fee of $4 is waived if customers:
    • Keep a $200 daily minimum balance or;
    • Establish a monthly automatic funds transfer from any FirstMerit checking account or
    • If 18 years of age or younger
  • Earn interest when the minimum daily balance on the account is $50 or more
  • May be used for overdraft protection when linked to your FirstMerit checking account
  • Easy access to funds with a FirstMerit Debit Card
  • Free paperless statements
  • Free online banking
  • Free mobile banking & alerts

Customized Debit Cards

Another highlight is FirstMerit's Individualized Debit Card offer. They offer customizable debit cards through a design feature they call 'Completely You' which allows each cardholder to personalize their debit card by choosing the image for their card. Debit Card Features & Benefits
  • MasterCard Extended Warranty: Doubles manufacturer's or store's warranty for up to a maximum of one year
  • MasterCard Satisfaction Guarantee: Refund up to $250 if you are dissatisfied with product and merchant will not accept return
  • MasterCard Price Protection: Card refund of the price difference if you find a lower price within 120 days of purchase
  • MasterCard SecureCode™ Debit offers added protection when shopping online
  • Zero Liability Protection when using FirstMerit Debit MasterCard over the phone, the Internet or for signed purchase transactions
  • Checking account statements detailing every purchase made, outlining the amount, the merchant's name, and the location
  • 24-hour access to your account(s) at any ATM displaying a MasterCard or STAR®  logo
  • MasterCard Global Service® provides worldwide, 24-hour assistance with lost and stolen card reporting, replacement, and an emergency cash advance
Another stand-out feature is FirstMerit's Reloadable ReadySpend Prepaid MasterCard. This card is unique in the sense that it is a prepaid balance with all the functionalities of an account-linked debit card.  This is a convenient and smart option for customers who want financial control when it comes to spending and who want to manage funds for certain goals, such as vacationing, saving or budgeting. It also is an option for parents to give to kids to cover specific expenses away at college. Features & Benefits
  • Customers can make purchases at millions of locations worldwide that accept Debit MasterCard®
  • Get cash at ATMs worldwide or cash back with purchases at participating merchants
  • Make bill payments at participating retailers and service providers
  • Card can be Reloaded through direct deposit or at local FirstMerit branch
  • Customers can track their available balance and card activity online
  • Card can be replaced if lost or stolen
Digital natives should love First Merit's Text Banking Feature.

Text Banking

Customers can utilize the Text Banking service by sending a text to FirstMerit Bank's designated number listed on their website. This allows customers, through texting, to request and receive account information and stay informed about important account activity. With text alerts, customers can choose to receive:
  • Low balance alert with transfer option
  • Balance alerts
  • Transaction alerts
  • Scheduled alerts
  • Payment alerts
  • Security alerts
Text alerts are a good way to prevent fraud and identity theft in real time.

The Bad

  • Closing fees
  • Other fees

Closing Fees

One penalty that seems questionable is the $25 closing fee when an account is closed within the first year. Even major banks like Bank of America do not charge a fee to close personal checking and savings accounts. FirstMerit also charges a lot of "nickel and dime" fees for services that can be found as complimentary at other competitive banks. Customers will want to be sure to keep their account in good standing because there are a list of fees waiting if they don't. Or if they need additional services, they should be aware of the costs.

Other Fees

Fees such as: ATM Debit Card Fees:
  • ATM Card/Debit Card Replacement $3.00 per card
  • ATM Card Monthly Fee $1.00 per card
  • Debit Card Design Change Initial change is free, $5.00 for any change thereafter
  • Debit Card rush processing or special handling $25.00
  • FirstMerit ATM Transactions Free First Merit ATM Mini-statement $2.50
  • Foreign Transaction Fee 3%
  • Merchant Sales Draft - copy $5.00
  • Non-FirstMerit ATM fees $2.50 per transaction
  • Re-issue Debit Card expedited or special handling $25.00
Then there are others:
  • Account Closed Within 90 Days of Opening- $25.00
  • Account Closed Within 1 Year of Opening- $25.00
  • Charge Off Fee- $35.00
  • Check Image Enclosure Fee- $3.00 per month
  • Check Order Fee (Varies by product and check design)
  • Foreign Check Deposited- $5.00 per item
  • Foreign Check Collection- $50.00
  • Inactive Checking Account Fee $25.00
  • Interim Statement- $5.00
  • Mobile Banking Deposit Fee (waived for higher maintenance fee checking accounts) $.50 per deposit
  • Paper Statement Fee- $3.00
  • Re-deposited Item- $5.00
  • Returned Check  Deposited- $10.00
  • Return Mail - no charge first occurrence, then $10.00 each additional occurrence
  • Savings Club Account Withdrawal Fee $5.00
  • Savings Club Closure Fee -$10.00
  • Stop Payment (includes lost/stolen items and electronic funds transfers) is $33.00
  • Telephone Transfer of $2.00
The above fees are not all. FirstMerit customers also have the usual fees for overdraft/insufficient funds (NSF) which are comparable to any other bank. However, there are a few more "miscellaneous" fees customers need to consider:
  • Garnishments/Levy $75.00
  • Wisconsin Garnishments $40.00
  • Bond Coupon Processing Fee $3.00 per envelope
  • Checkbook Balancing $15.00 per hour
  • Check Photocopy $5.00 each
  • Domestic Collection of Check $15.00 each
  • Fax Fee $2.00 per transmission
  • Gift Checks (Cheques) $2.50 per check
  • IRA Trustee to Trustee Transfer $30.00
  • Research Time $20.00 per hour
  • Remittance of child support check $5.00 Safe Deposit Box -Storage fee for drilled safe deposit box contents $20.00 per month
For everyday personal banking and even small business customers, these fees can pop up at any time and add up quickly.

The Bottom Line

When closing one's personal bank account in good standing (meaning no overdrafts), it is arguable that there should be a $25 fee to pay as FirstMerit charges its customers. Having fees on regular account-linked debit cards are not a great asset to everyday account holders, either. The flagship checking and savings accounts, however, are worth a second look since they are low-cost with either no monthly maintenance fees or very minimum fees, i.e. $4, that can be waived somewhat easily. If in any doubt, being that other banks have both savings and checking accounts (and debit cards) with no fees, the text banking feature is a highlight for digital natives who can keep on top of their account transactions as well as prevent fraudulent activity. Their prepaid debit cards with personalized design options are also a plus.
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