How Free Checking Really Works

Jan 07, 2024 By Triston Martin

Where Can I Get Free Checking?

  • Find a credit union or bank that has a free account
  • Qualify for fee waivers

#1 indeed requires the least effort once you've opened your account. But finding free accounts isn't easy. Which places do you have the greatest chance of finding an account for free? Small banks, online banks, or credit unions can be the best options. Remember that "free" is only referring to the standard services. If you take certain actions (request a wire transfer or bounce checks or bounce checks, etc.), you'll be required to pay for fees.

Online banks are among the most competitive of all account types, not just for free checking. They offer higher interest rates in savings, and they keep charges low and could even charge interest on your account for checking. Checking accounts online is free; accounts include:

  • The Online Checking Account of Capital One 360
  • The Interest Checking Account of Ally Bank

Both of these accounts provide interest on your deposits. Small banks can also be competitive. They are usually local banks with lower costs to gain local businesses. They've also designed their businesses differently than big banks. They may not have millions of customers to enable them to run on a larger scale, but they haven't built a business model that relies on sources of revenue that large banks have drained. For locating an institution in your area, search locally and then look for local newspapers. Banks are often advertising special offers.

Credit unions are owned by customers who share a similar situation with smaller banks. Because all customers "own" stakes in the banks (as against a corporation that wants to make the most profit), it's a good possibility that you'll locate free checking. Credit unions are tax-exempt entities and therefore have more to play with. The only downside to joining a credit union is that you need to be eligible to join one. That's usually simple (you may be able to qualify by your place of residence or work or some other criterion).

Fee waivers are another possibility. If you're unable to locate an online banking institution, small-sized bank, or credit union that meets your requirements, you may be right with a large bank. Most banks will waive their charges for monthly usage (making it a completely free account) if you meet certain requirements. You can qualify by having your paychecks deposited directly into your account. Other waivers may be granted if you have an outstanding amount of money in your account or use other products offered by the bank (getting a mortgage or having the balance high in a savings account could help).

Free Doesn't Mean Any Fees

A checking account that is "free" does not mean that you'll never be charged charges. The reverse is typically the case. The free account that's not the right choice for your requirements could result in a higher cost. If, for instance, you're a type of person who occasionally has to overdraw their account, it is important to be aware of how a bank you're considering uses overdraft fees. Overdraft charges average $32.74 per transaction. One or two overdrafts can quickly surpass a whole year's worth of maintenance charges, the National Consumer Law Center's Saunders states. In addition, unlike the monthly charges, overdraft charges are not predictable and could hit with enough force to drive accounts out completely from the banking system.

Fewer and Lower Fees

Americans dislike fees; although they're often necessary, that's completely untrue in the case of checking accounts. One of the last things you'll be concerned about is having your bank charge you just for opening an account! A typical big bank fee will cost you around 9 dollars per month on a check or savings account, and some banks will also charge fees for savings accounts when you don't meet certain requirements (like an annual minimum amount of balance.)

Based on CUNA, Arizona credit unions provide their members with an average of $78 annually compared to other banks. One of the reasons is the lower and less costly fees that credit unions offer compared to their large bank counterparts. In reality, the overall financial gain for Arizona members for 2020 is more than 14 million dollars saved due to the lower or no fees. Three fees that can be removed or reduced when you join a credit union comprise the minimum balance for checking accounts, maintenance fee for accounts, and ATM fee. Copper State Credit Union offers an account for free checking and removes all three of them.

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