The Harvard's Coop's decision to stop cashing checks for members will save the Coop $30,000 with a minimum of inconvenience for those affected, Coop Director Alexander Zavelle said yesterday.
Until this year, the Coop approved checks for cashing at the Cambridge Trust or, last year, the Harvard Trust. Saturdays, when the banks were closed, the Coop cashed checks for up to $25 in its cashier's office. Both services have been discontinued.
Coop directors first considered dropping the service when two Cambridge banks-Coolidge Bank and Charles Bank and Trust-began offering no minimum-deposit, no-charge checking accounts and Saturday hours.
The Coop asked the Harvard Trust Company and the Cambridge. Trust Company-each of which offered $100 minimum-balance free checking-to offer the free accounts and Saturday hours. Harvard Trust agreed to create a free checking plan for Coop members and to keep its Harvard Square office open Saturday morning. Cambridge Trust retained its previous services and hours.
"We think it's ridiculous for the Coop to spend $30,000 to do something any student can do for himself for free with much less trouble," Zavelle said. He said the $30,000 represents the cost of personnel to approve checks, following up on bad checks and absorbing losses for checks on which they never collect.
Zavelle added, however, that the Coop board does feel that it has a responsibility to students in this area and that if the banks stop providing free checking "we may have to resume our old policy."
The new policy has proved to be a boon to some Harvard Square banks. The Harvard Trust, which is next-door to the Coop, reported a nine per cent increase in new checking accounts in the third quarter of this year compared to a similar period in 1969. The percentage increase in September alone at the Harvard Square branch is probably even higher.
Coolidge Bank and Trust, in a trailer in Brattle Square, also reported a sizeable increase in new accounts this Fall but would not release statistics.
At Cambridge Trust, officer Louis H. Clark said, "We didn't lose that much, though we did get the short end of the stick from the Coop." The Coop sent a notice to all incoming freshmen listing the banks offering free no-minimum-balance checking and mentioning the Cambridge Trust as a bank offering "student accounts" but no free checking or Saturday hours.
Clark said that next year the Cambridge Trust may go along. "We didn't know the Harvard Trust was going to do it," he said, "and we figured nobody wants to go down to that trailer."