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Santander adds new checking option

As part of its campaign to introduce its brand and draw more customers, Santander Bank introduced a new rewards-type checking account on Monday.

Santander, formerly Sovereign Bank, is offering customers who open the new account, called extra20, $20 a month. But the money doesn’t come free. To qualify for the bonuses, customers must have at least $1,500 a month in direct deposits into the account and pay at least two bills through Santander’s online banking function.

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Santander is promoting the new accounts with commercials featuring actor Robert De Niro.

Banks have returned to free gifts, from iPods to luxury handbags, and cash back promotions to lure customers, especially since interest rates on accounts have plummeted.

Spanish banking giant Banco Santander SA dropped the Sovereign name for its American branches earlier this month. The bank has 1.7 million customers. Executives say they want the bank to add another 300,000 customers over the next three years.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the account fees.

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