PNC Bank Review: Low Monthly Fees, But Watch Out for Overdrafts

This photo shows the PNC bank headquarters in Pittsburg, PA.
Getty Images

PNC Financial Services may have a small geographic footprint, but when it comes to its assets, it’s mighty.

The bank, which only operates in 19 states and the District of Columbia, is ranked as the 9th largest bank in the U.S. based on assets. 

If you live where PNC operates, it’s up to you to determine if you want to trust them with your money. Our job is to provide you with an honest look at the bank’s checking and savings features for individuals and small businesses. We’ll also check out their overall convenience and mobile banking features for good measure.

PNC Bank Review: Pros and Cons

What we like:

  • Low monthly service fees that are fairly easy to get waived
  • Financial wellness tools for saving and budgeting
  • Low fees for business accounts
  • A lot of options for CDs for terms and amounts

What we don’t like:

  • The $36 overdraft fee – which can be issued up to 4 times a day – is pretty steep.
  • The bank only serves 19 states and the District of Columbia, and is not available in over half the country.
  • Some question marks on the newest update to the app. It’s prettier, but is it better?
  • Sub-par interest rates across the board. Not the worst we’ve seen, but not the best. If you’re looking to earn on your savings, you could do better.

Checking 

Grade: C+

PNC’s basic account is made up of three accounts bundled together in what the bank calls Virtual Wallet:

  • The Spend, a non-interest bearing checking account
  • The Reserve, a checking account that offers .01% interest
  • A savings account

You can open a new account online with a $0 minimum opening deposit. You can also earn $50 just for setting up a recurring direct deposit of $500 or more each month. 

It has a relatively low $7 monthly maintenance fee that is waived if you:

  • Keep an average monthly balance of $500 or more
  • Have $500 or more in qualifying monthly direct deposits
  • Are age 62 or older

The Spend account does not offer interest. But, with Virtual Wallet, you also get a Reserve Account, which offers .01% interest. That account is meant to serve as your short-term savings account and overdraft protection account.

PNC’s overdraft fees are nothing to sneeze at. They charge $36 with a maximum of 4 overdrafts per day. However, if your account is overdrawn by $5 or less, they’ll refund the fee. If the account remains overdrawn for 5 or more consecutive days, you’ll get a $7 continuous overdraft fee that maxes out at $98. 

If you link one of your other PNC accounts with your checking account, you won’t have to pay a transaction fee for overdraft protection.

PNC does have some helpful features to help you budget and save. You can plan your bills out on a calendar so you can keep track of what’s coming each month. You can also create budgets for different spending categories like shopping, dining out or gas. 

ATM fees are slightly higher than with other banks. You’ll get hit with a $3 fee for non-PNC ATMs and $5 for international transactions.

Savings

Grade: C+ 

The PNC savings account is called the Standard Savings and it requires a $25 minimum opening deposit.

The account carries a $5 monthly service fee that’s waived if:

  • You maintain an average monthly balance of $300.
  • You set up an Auto Savings transfer of $25 or more from your PNC checking account each month.
  • You are under 18 years old.

You can build your savings by setting up automatic deposits from your checking account on certain dates or each time you receive a paycheck. That makes it easy to build your savings without thinking about it , while also waiving that pesky monthly fee.

The Standard Savings account has a low .01% interest rate as a standalone account. However, if you link it with your checking or other PNC account, you get the “relationship rate,” which is .05% for balances under $2,500 and .1% for balances at or above that amount. The national average for savings accounts is .09% so these rates aren’t amazing, but they’re not terrible, either.

PNC offers a lot of options if you’re looking to put your money into a CD. They have short-term and long term CDs with fixed rates, variable rates, and even stepped rates. Rates vary from .15% to 1% based on the type of CD, length of term and amount deposited. 

Small Business Banking

A business owner poses for a portrait at the entrance of her bar.
Getty Images

Grade: B

PNC keeps it sweet and simple for their Business Checking account. 

There is a $100 minimum opening deposit, which should be manageable for most business owners. The monthly service fee is only $10, but it doesn’t take effect for the first three statement cycles. Plus, you can get that waived by:

  • Maintain an average monthly collected balance of $500.
  • Link to a PNC business credit card and use that card to make at least $500 in purchases.
  • Maintain a linked PNC Merchant Services account and deposit at least $500 each month. 

The PNC Business Checking account allows for up to 150 transactions and $5,000 in cash deposits per month at no charge. 

You can also get free online banking and bill pay as well as set up an overdraft protection for no fee. They charge $2 each month for paper statements, but you can easily avoid that by going paperless.

Need help making the switch? PNC has a Quick Switch Kit designed to make switching from another bank easy for you. Yes, it serves their own best interest, but it could be a big help for you, too.

Convenience

Grade: B

As mentioned, PNC Bank only serves in 20 states, but it has 2,306 branches spread throughout those states. Their range includes most of the United States east of Wisconsin, Missouri and Alabama.

If you’re looking for an ATM, you’ll do OK with approximately 15,000 of them out there. Some of the big banks covering the entire country don’t have many more than that, so there should be good coverage out there in the states that PNC serves.

While this review looks at checking and savings options, you can get a full suite of services from PNC, including credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and investment accounts. 

Mobile Banking

Grade: B-

PNC’s mobile banking app gets a rock-solid 4.8 out of 5 stars in the Apple App Store and 4.6 out of 5 in the Google Play Store. 

Many of the financial wellness features mentioned in this review are available on the app. You can set your savings goals and automatic savings deposits. You can create budgets for different categories. It is designed to be an all-in-one banking and budgeting app, which means you won’t need to set foot in a branch if you don’t want to. 

While reviewers give the app solid star ratings, a lot of reviewers are less positive about the newest updates to the PNC app. The general consensus seems to be that the update increased the app’s visual appeal at the expense of its functionality. The issues could be resolved with another app update, but that remains to be seen.

Be sure to check out our bank promotions post to see an up-to-date list of sign-up bonuses and incentives.

Our Bank Review Methodology

The Penny Hoarder’s editorial team considers more than 25 factors in its bank account reviews, including fees, minimum daily balance requirements, APYs, overdraft charges, ATM access, number of physical locations, customer service support access and mobile features. 

To determine how we weigh each factor, The Penny Hoarder surveyed 1,500 people to find out what banking features matter most to you. 

For example, we give top grades to banks that have low fees because our survey showed that this is the No. 1 thing you look for in a bank. Because more than 70% of you said you visited a physical bank branch last year, we consider the number of brick-and-mortar locations. But more than one-third of you use mobile apps for more than 75% of your banking, so digital features are also considered carefully.

Ratings are assigned on a scale of one (worst) to five (best) stars across the following categories:

  • Personal checking accounts
  • Personal savings accounts
  • Small-business banking
  • Convenience
  • Mobile banking

Credit card and loan products are not currently considered.

Tyler Omoth is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.