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PNC dominates campus with exclusive Pitt deal

By Nerine Sivagnanam / Staff Writer

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College students may not be known for their fat wallets, but that doesn’t make their money any less valuable.

Oakland is home to a multitude of bank branches, but with 10 PNC ATM locations and a special agreement between the University and the bank, other competitors are outnumbered on Pitt’s campus.

Michael Abriola, senior vice president of Eureka Bank on Forbes Avenue, said college students, like any other consumer group, should have many options to choose from when picking a bank. 

“At Eureka Bank, we feel that students should have options when they choose a bank to use during their college years,” Abriola said. “The exclusive agreement between Pitt and PNC that links a PNC Bank account to the student’s ID makes it difficult for other local banks to compete for the college student market.” 

The University has a banking services agreement with PNC for faculty and students, according to Ken Service, vice chancellor of communications. The main benefits of the agreement are the multiple ATM locations on campus, the branch office inside Nordenberg Hall and the option for students to link their bank accounts to their Panther Cards, which they can use as ATM cards at no extra cost. Service said Pitt receives annual funding from PNC as a part of the agreement but did not disclose the amount because the University signs a new contract with PNC each year. The funding, Service said, is not dependent on how much students use PNC or their ATMs. 

With Pitt’s link to PNC, other banks in the area may struggle to get as much business from college students. 

PNC has ATMs in Nordenberg Hall, Litchfield Towers, Bruce Hall, the William Pitt Union, the Peterson Events Center, Sutherland Hall, Lothrop Hall, the Public Safety Building, the Biomedical Science Tower, Benedum Hall, and the Cathedral of Learning. No other bank operates this many ATMs on Pitt’s campus, though Dollar Bank and Citizens bank each have one on campus

“It is a completely voluntary program that is offered to our faculty, staff and students as a convenience and basically provides good benefits to them,” Service said.

PNC Bank spokesperson Marcey Zwiebel said active students don’t have to pay fees to open a student account with PNC or have a minimum balance requirement for six years. These rules apply to any student looking to open a PNC account, not just Pitt students.

Although executives claim the agreement makes it more difficult to attract college students, Eureka and other Oakland banks still have services dedicated to college students.

These services, according to employees from other Oakland banks, are almost identical to those of PNC bank, except for the ATM locations and Panther Card link.

“We do have a small customer base comprised of college students,” Abriola said. “At Eureka Bank, students can open a free checking account with us and have the convenience of free online banking, free mobile banking, free online bill pay, as well as our free Popmoney (person-to-person payments) service.” 

Other banks in the Oakland area include First Niagara Bank, Dollar Bank and First National Bank. 

Thomas Fontana, senior vice president and regional sales manager of retail banking at First Niagara, said First Niagara also offers free checking as well as an ATM card for students that can be used at any machine with no transaction fee.

Dollar Bank also has a student banking program, said Kelly McBroom, the bank’s Oakland branch officer. The program is similar to PNC’s — no minimum account balance or monthly fees. Students who open accounts with Dollar Bank also receive a $50 bonus.

First National Bank also has its own account program for students called First National Bank-University (FNB-U), said the bank’s regional executive Alan Bicker. The program offers no-fee checking accounts, two free foreign ATM uses per month, a customized student debit card, free online, mobile and monthly Popmoney transactions, which allows users to send each other money digitally 

“A Savers Goal CD can be tied to the checking to help save for the future, and we also work with Sallie Mae to offer the Smart Option Student Loan program, all through FNB,” he said. 

Students who open FNB-U accounts are entered to win $5,000 cash to help pay for tuition, Bicker said, and the bank also plans to offer a credit card for students to help them “gain a credit history prior to graduation.”

Joining Dollar Bank and First National Bank both include the small bonus of a $50 reward — a benefit that Eureka, First Niagara and PNC do not offer. 

McBroom said Dollar Bank still has a relationship with Pitt despite Pitt’s more formal link to PNC. 

“We have a great relationship with the University of Pittsburgh that gets us in front of many students. Our branch is located in the heart of the Oakland campus with an ATM on Fifth Avenue, as well as an ATM at the Petersen Event Center,” McBroom said. 

Though Dollar Bank sponsors both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, they do not have the same type of agreement with Pitt that PNC does, and students cannot link their Panther Cards to any other accounts but PNC.

Breanna Donate, a sophomore majoring in psychology, said she chose PNC because of its convenient locations on campus.

“I’m not really aware of many of the advantages of choosing PNC as a Pitt student, but I know of the link between the two,” Donate said.

Students should be completely informed of all their banking options, Bicker said, before making a decision. 

“They are not obligated to bank somewhere due to the on-campus ATM network or accounts tied in with the student campus ID cards,” Bicker said.  “It’s not necessarily about competing. It is more about educating students about all of their financial options.”

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PNC dominates campus with exclusive Pitt deal