Credit unions have been handed "a tremendous opportunity" to gain new market share as a result of those continuing reports of big banks dropping free checking, the head of New Jersey's second largest CU, the $1.5 billion Merck Employees Federal, said Wednesday.

Despite the grave industry concern over the fallout from the Federal Reserve interchange rules, the banks' exit from free checking "is indeed good news," said Ray Del Nero in commenting on reports in New Jersey that both Wells Fargo and Chase Bank will start phasing out free checking in the Garden State next month.

Based on the news accounts, it was not entirely clear, Del Nero said, if the end of free checking was linked to the banks' loss of overdraft income or some other reason.

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