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To deepen its relationship with holders of Sapphire Reserve credit cards – hugely popular among 20- and 30-somethings – Chase last week announced a premier checking account that features perks and rewards typically offered by premium credit cards. Among the benefits:

  • Access to Sapphire lounges at concerts and events
  • Access to pre-sale tickets
  • 60,000 free Ultimate Rewards after 90 days

Customers must maintain a minimum balance of $75,000 to get these perks, a large hurdle for the everyday person to clear. But the goal is to please people who want to feel “rewarded for the relationship they have with a bank,” said Dipti Kachru, who co-led the development of Sapphire Banking.

On the other end of the spectrum, Empower said its debit card users could earn 1 percent cash back, up to $10 each month.

And Stash, an investment app that’s working on expanding into banking services, plans to provide a debit card that can earn 10 percent back at 10,000 merchants, according to its website.

Fee-free life

Fintechs are also pressuring the bigger banks to rethink checking account fees that can be a game-changer for many millennials. A Gallup survey this year found that people in that age group are most likely to leave their primary bank because of account fees or service changes.

“Millennials are acting like their grandparents and great-grandparents, the Depression-era generation,” said Michael Moebs, CEO of Moebs Services, a research firm for the financial services industry. “They are very wallet-conscious and leery of fees. They have a keen eye for value.”

As a result, most of the mobile banks avoid charging maintenance, monthly and overdraft fees, and have no account-balance minimums. Some even won’t charge foreign transaction fees, the 1- to 3-percent hit you may incur to place a transaction in a foreign currency.

Some of the bigger banks are taking notice.

Both Wells Fargo and Chase introduced mobile banking accounts that don’t have overdraft fees, which generates $17 billion a year in revenue for the industry, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Overdrafts are the single-largest cost for banking customers with checking accounts.

Chase’s Finn banking still charges foreign transaction fees, while it’s unclear if Wells Fargo’s Greenhouse will charge a monthly maintenance fee after the beta version concludes. Currently, Greenhouse doesn’t charge a monthly fee.

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Larry FinkFederal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell testifies during a hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee July 17, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.