Free Checking Accounts
You won’t have to worry about monthly fees on any of the free checking accounts
listed below, regardless of your balance. You can avoid monthly fees on a broader range of bank accounts by maintaining a certain minimum balance or simply by having your payroll or government benefits directly deposited. But keep in mind there’s no such thing as totally
free checking, because even “free” checking accounts charge transactional fees for things like overdrafts or out-of-network ATM withdrawals. You more
can find advice for choosing an account in the Expert’s Answers section below. If you’ve used a free checking account in the past, be sure to help other searchers by writing a review. less
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Tips For Avoiding Checking Account Fees
Free checking enables you to avoid monthly fees and the minimum daily balance requirements that often accompany them. But you may still incur other fees for other types of transactions. There are approximately 30 possible fees associated with the average checking account, according to WalletHub’s Checking Account Transparency Report
. For most consumers, however, the highest cost after a monthly fee comes from bounced checks and account overdrafts. Acting strategically will help you keep costs as low as possible. Here are some tips for doing so:
- Say No To Your Bank: When you open your checking account, the bank or credit union will offer to cover one-time debit card and ATM transactions that exceed your balance in exchange for an overdraft fee. By refusing this offer, your transactions will be declined, but you won’t incur costly overdraft charges.
- Get Overdraft Protection: While you can opt out from having your bank cover overdrafts, you can still be charged nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees when you bounce checks. A service offered by banks and credit unions,overdraft protection keeps your account from going negative in the first place. It covers checking account shortfalls by transferring funds from another deposit account or even from a loan. There is a cost associated with this option, but it is cheaper than overdraft and NSF fees.
- Monitor Your Banking Activity: In any case, a little attention to your banking activity will help you to avoid costly overdraft fees. Take advantage of online and mobile banking tools. You can also maintain a check register and reconcile it with your bank statement every month. And by recording checks as you write them, you’ll avoid spending the funds that are meant to cover those checks.
- Avoid ATM Fees: You can save on ATM fees by selecting a bank that has terminals located close to your home and work. But an even better option is to seek out an institution that doesn’t charge to use other banks’ ATMs. Some, like online-only banks, will even reimburse you for the surcharges many ATM owners tack on.
- Don’t Overlook Smaller Institutions: You might start by looking at credit unions, which charge, on average, about 70% cheaper fees than national banks, according to the WalletHub Banking Landscape Report. But don’t ignore online-only banks, which charge roughly comparable rates to credit unions, due to their low overhead.
Can I Open A Free Checking Account With Bad Credit?
Your credit report and credit score have no bearing on your ability to open a free checking account. Although you can get a free checking account with no credit check, banks and credit unions still check your bank account history through a database called ChexSystems. If you’ve mismanaged a bank account within the past five years, that will be reflected on your ChexSystems report, and other banks are likely to deny your application for a new account. Check out our guide to ChexSystems
to learn more about the consumer reporting agency and its practices.
However, you still have options if you have a bad banking record:
- Apply For Second Chance Checking: This account type is designed specifically for consumers with blemished ChexSystems records and offers the advantages of traditional checking with certain limitations. Keep in mind, though, that second chance checking accounts aren’t free and tend to have higher-than-average fees.
- Get A Prepaid Card: A prepaid card, which is functionally identical to a checking account without the physical checkbook, is a more affordable option for people who’ve had trouble opening a checking account. Fees vary widely on prepaid cards, but by shopping around and choosing carefully, you can get your effective costs pretty close to zero.