PNC checking account review: A hybrid checking and savings account

A bearded man sits near a large window and uses his smartphone to research a PNC checking account.Image: A bearded man sits near a large window and uses his smartphone to research a PNC checking account.
Editorial Note: Intuit Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

PNC Virtual Wallet Spend checking account at a glance

Physical locations More than 2,600 bank locations
Getting started Simple — no initial deposit requirement if account is opened online ($25 otherwise)
Monthly service fee $7 monthly service fee unless you meet certain requirements
Overdraft fees $36 per overdraft, but overdrafts of $5 or less are automatically refunded
Other fees Many fees, including out-of-network ATM charges, debit card replacement, debit card cash advances, paper statements, ATM statements, wire transfer fee, stop payment fee
How to deposit In person, by mail, at an ATM, or via mobile deposit, direct deposit, Zelle transfers
How to withdraw/pay Debit card, ATM, paper checks, online transfers, in person at a bank branch, Zelle transfers
Notable feature Money management tools such as “low cash mode,” which gives you extra time to avoid a fee and bring your account back to $0 if you accidentally overdraft

PNC Bank offers a Virtual Wallet Spend account, which combines checking features with digital tools to help you manage your money.

PNC offers three levels of Virtual Wallet accounts, but for this review, we’ll focus on the base level.

5 things to know about a PNC Virtual Wallet checking account

Here are some things you should consider if you’re thinking about opening a Virtual Wallet checking account with PNC Bank.

1. Customizable account with savings tie-ins

The Virtual Wallet Spend account is a checking account, but you can customize it to meet your needs. PNC allows you to tie in savings account options to your account: Reserve and Growth.

Reserve works like a short-term savings account for short-term planning and saving. And while it earns interest on balances over $1, the rate is lower than the Growth account — but both are low. Reserve can also function as overdraft protection for your checking account.

2. An account packed with fees

The Spend account charges a $7 monthly service fee, but there are ways that you can avoid the fee. To avoid the fee, you must meet one of the following three requirements:

  • Keep an average minimum monthly balance of at least $500 combined in your accounts
  • Have monthly direct deposits of $500 or more
  • Be 62 years or older

But there may be other fees associated with your account. For example, while many banks have opted to remove overdraft fees for customers, PNC isn’t one of them. PNC still charges $36 if your account is overdrawn by $5 or more.

Plus, there are other fees to contend with. You’ll have to pay extra if you want a paper statement for your account — and the fee increases for statements with check images.

Incoming domestic wires will cost you $15 and returned deposit items cost $12 each.

3. Thousands of physical branches and ATMs

PNC Bank has thousands of branches across the country, which gives many customers easy access to in-person banking.

PNC also recently opened “Solution Centers” in some cities. These locations allow you to consult with PNC banking experts about your financial goals and banking needs — and there are plans to add these centers to new markets in the future.

PNC doesn’t offer fee-free ATM withdrawals at non-PNC ATMs. You’ll pay at least $3 for using a non-PNC ATM, but PNC currently reimburses charges for two non-PNC ATM transactions per month (though it looks like that will change after Oct. 23, 2022).

4. Spending rewards

PNC offers purchase rewards for its checking customers. By using the PNC Visa debit card connected to your Spend account, you may earn cash back on certain purchases included in PNC’s Purchase Payback offer. Simply activate available offers in your mobile app, use your PNC Visa card at the retailer and earn rewards.

​But keep in mind that the basic Spend account doesn’t allow you to earn interest on the money in your account. Some brick-and-mortar banks do offer interest on checking accounts. But if you want to earn interest on your money with PNC, you’ll need to move to a different checking account tier or add a savings account to Spend that offers interest.

5. Account management tools

PNC offers some useful account management tools with its Virtual Wallet Spend account. The app and online account features include budgeting and savings tools that let you set goals for your money. You can also use other unique tools, such as Low Cash mode, which limits fees and gives you additional time to get your balance back to $0.

Does PNC have free checking?

That depends on your perspective. While the Spend account from PNC Bank charges a $7 monthly service fee, you can avoid the fee and make this similar to a free checking account by meeting one of three requirements: maintaining a combined monthly balance of $500 or more, having a direct deposit each month for $500 or more or being age 62 or older.

Free checking accounts: 4 options to consider

Not sure if PNC Virtual Wallet Spend is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

  • Bank of America: Bank of America offers numerous checking accounts, including the Advantage Banking account, which offers a robust set of digital tools for account maintenance.
  • TD Bank: TD Bank is a good option to consider if you’re a student looking for a checking account with no monthly maintenance fee.