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Washington Mutual Ups the Ante with New Free Checking Account; Consumers Win Big with Free ATM Cash Withdrawals, a Free Overdraft/NSF Fee Waiver Each Year, Free Checks for Life, Cash Back for Debit Card Use, Free Outbound Wires and More

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 13, 2006--The stakes in consumer banking have been raised -- and consumers will be the big winners.

Today WaMu announced it has redefined every consumer's must-have product by introducing a new free checking product that combines an unprecedented bundle of features that all add up to convenience and value never before seen in any checking account.

The new WaMu Free Checking(TM) account offers all the features of WaMu's original Free Checking account plus: free ATM cash withdrawals, a free overdraft or insufficient funds fee waiver each year, free checks for life, cash back for debit card use, free outbound wires, free low-balance alerts with online banking, Free ID Theft Services -- and much more. (For more information about account features, see chart below.)

The company, a leading bank for consumers and small businesses, boldly stated this new account will shake up the entire industry. "We changed the banking industry by bringing Free Checking to consumers and small businesses more than a decade ago," said Kerry Killinger, chairman and CEO, Washington Mutual. "After a period of resistance by most banks, this product eventually became the standard offering around the country.

"Today, we are once again shaking up the industry," Killinger continued. "New WaMu Free Checking(TM) redefines what a great value is for customers. This product will set a new standard in banking, and we intend to let people know about it through an aggressive nationwide advertising campaign."

Steve Rotella, president and chief operating officer, Washington Mutual, pointed out that most banks offer some version of free checking, but many put hooks and hurdles in the way to avoid the monthly fee, such as minimum balance or direct deposit requirements. This makes banking complicated and confusing for customers who simply want a truly free checking account.

"We're constantly talking to consumers and it's clear they're overwhelmed, even annoyed by the requirements embedded in many 'free' checking accounts," said Rotella. "At WaMu, we're breaking through the clutter by delivering what consumers are asking for -- 'give me easier access to my money,' 'give me a break if I overdraw my account,' 'reward me for my business.'"

"But that's not all," Rotella continued. "When combined with WaMu's friendly, helpful service and award-winning retail environment, we're convinced that the new WaMu Free Checking(TM) account is the greatest value in consumer banking. After consumers do the comparison, we think they'll find our new product is by far and away the best."

Defining Moment

According to Killinger, the launch of the new WaMu Free Checking(TM) account represents a defining moment for the company. "We've built our business by welcoming everyday customers to WaMu with our original Free Checking account, and then by winning them over with our other great products and customer service," said Killinger.

"We had great momentum in 2005, opening 725,000 net Free Checking accounts. We expect to significantly accelerate this growth with the new WaMu Free Checking(TM) account," Killinger added. "People looking for simplicity, convenience and value in their banking relationship will find it here," he said. "Making it easier for consumers and providing a great experience -- that's the WaMu way."

Major Advertising Campaign

In support of the new WaMu Free Checking(TM) account, the company is launching a major advertising campaign on March 13 that will illustrate the clear differentiation of WaMu from the rest of the banking industry. The national campaign, created by WaMu's new ad agency of record, Leo Burnett USA, pokes fun at old-fashioned bankers enraged with WaMu's new product and its engaging, down-to-earth way of doing business -- The WaMu Way.(TM)

About Washington Mutual

The new WaMu Free Checking(TM) account is offered by Washington Mutual Bank and Washington Mutual Bank fsb. With a history dating back to 1889, Washington Mutual is a leading provider of financial services for consumers and small businesses. At December 31, 2005, Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries had assets of $343.12 billion. Washington Mutual currently operates more than 2,600 retail banking, mortgage lending, commercial banking and financial services offices throughout the nation. Washington Mutual's press releases are available at

The New WaMu Free Checking(TM) Account Features:

  • Free ATM Cash Withdrawals -- Washington Mutual will not charge for withdrawals from this account at non-Washington Mutual ATMs anywhere in the world. (Non-refundable ATM operator and foreign currency exchange and transaction fees may apply).
  • Free Checks for Life -- Customers ordering their checks through Washington Mutual can get them for free; select styles are available.
  • Free OD/NSF Fee (one per year) -- One OD or NSF fee refund each anniversary year; unused refunds can be carried over.
  • Free Gold Debit MasterCard(R) with Rewards -- The account comes with a Gold Debit MasterCard(R) and Washington Mutual will give a reward (currently $0.03) for each Debit MasterCard purchase transaction (pin or signature) during the prior year up to a $250 reward if the account is open and in good standing on the anniversary date.
  • Free Outgoing Wire Transfers -- Washington Mutual will not charge for outbound international or domestic wire transfers. (Non-refundable foreign currency exchange charges and intermediary and beneficiary bank fees may apply.)
  • Free ID Theft Services -- Customers will receive recovery assistance if they ever become the victim of identity theft.
  • Free e-Alerts -- Low balance, large withdrawal, and OD event notification alerts sent by e-mail. (Enrollment in free online banking service is required.)
  • Other features -- No monthly fee. No minimum balance or direct deposit requirement to avoid the monthly fee. Option of free check return or check storage, free teller access, no per check charges, free account access at more than 3,700 Washington Mutual ATMs nationwide, free 24/7 telephone banking, free personal online banking with Personal Bill Pay Service(R).

CONTACT: Washington Mutual, Seattle
Sheri Pollock, 206-377-2138 (Media)
Derek Aney, 212-326-6075 (Media)
Mary Kelley, 206-377-6878 (Media)
Alan Magleby, 212-326-6019 (Investors)

SOURCE: Washington Mutual