National City paying customers $200 to close HELOCs

Piggy bank with house and money

If you have a National City home equity line of credit that you're not using, the bank may pay you to close it out.

That's an unusual move, given that so many lenders -- including Countrywide Financial, Chase, Bank of America and Washington Mutual -- are freezing customers' current home equity lines without warning or payment.

The lenders say they're targeting areas where home values have fallen too much to justify the lines of credit.

National City says it may freeze some of its customers' lines of credit, too -- the bank says it's "actively monitoring real estate market conditions" and could contact certain customers about altering their equity accounts.

Last year, National City stopped offering home equity loans through brokers. However, home equity loans and HELOCs are still available through its retail banking network.

And now, through a separate program, the bank is offering some customers $200 to close out their home equity lines.

National City spokeswoman Kelly Wagner Amen says it's a financial reward to show appreciation for the bank's customers and a way for the bank to manage its assets.

"We recognize that our customers' financial needs are constantly changing," says Wagner Amen. "If they haven't accessed it recently, they may not need the line of credit at this time. And we're able to reallocate our own resources."

National City also will waive the typical termination fee it charges to close the line of credit -- $350 or 1% of line of equity amount, whichever is less.

Not all customers with inactive accounts qualify. The program, which started in July, is being offered to select borrowers who don't have a balance and were not drawing on their line of credit. Eligible customers will be notified with a letter.