When it comes to checking, free sounds great. Hey, we all want to spend less. But you should understand how it works before you sign up.
Banks offer free checking as a way for you to save money. You won’t have to pay the service charges every month. In order to sign up, you usually have to make a small deposit to open the account. Most free accounts have no balance minimum requirements. Some will even offer you free checks with your free checking account.
The best free checking accounts have the following features:
- No minimum dollar amount on transactions
- Unlimited checkwriting
- No low balance fees
- Free ATM card
- No charge for direct deposits
- Free online access to your account
- Free checks, either unlimited or so many a month
- free online bill pay
There are even a few free checking plans that offer:
- Overdraft protection plans
- No charge to use your bank’s ATMs
- Reimbursement of ATM fees
It is rare to find all of these features in a plan, but the more you find, the better the plan. Shop around and look at the different types of free checking available to you. Look at how you use your current checking. If you overdraft occasionally, you may really need that overdraft protection. If your paycheck is on direct deposit, you will need to have free direct deposits. List your requirements and look for an account that works for you.
When you sign up with a free checking account, there are a few things you will not receive. You will not be paid interest on your checking account. You will have to choose a different type of account in order to earn interest on your checking — which will be minimal anyway.
You may not be able to see your checks after they have been paid. Some accounts will have the images online, but most will not return your checks to you. Most people do not need this service on personal accounts. You can use duplicate checks (these are usually not free), keep good records or look to your online images. If you need a copy, you can always order it from your bank for a small fee.
When you have free checking, you no longer have free stop payments and cancelled check return. Most people never really use these services. If you do, ask your bank for an account type that includes them for free. The fees for these services can often add up to more than you are saving by taking a free account.
Free checking accounts are great for those who carry small balances in their checking accounts. Banks offer these accounts in order to bring in business. They are hoping that you will do additional business with them, such as loans and investments. When considering a free checking account, look at both what you get and what you don’t get before you sign up.