Checking Accounts:
Finding the Right Fit

Free or Fee

Checking Accounts: Finding the Right Fit

When it comes to checking accounts, one size doesn't fit all. Use this handy checklist to determine the best account for you. Then compare the typical features associated with them.

Account FeatureYour Preferences
Average monthly balance Low. Medium. High.
Need to know my balance Once a month. Often.
Write checks Few. Several.
Use a debit card Never. Occasionally. Frequently.
Make deposits At the bank. Use direct deposit.
Prefer statements Paper. e-Statements.
Earn interest Important. Not as important.
Pay my bills By mail. Online if possible
FeaturesConsumer Tips
Minimum Opening Free accounts often have low opening balance requirements ($100). Interest bearing accounts require higher amounts ($750 or more).
Minimum Daily/Monthly Free or low fee accounts may have low or no minimum balance. Be sure to compare rates for other types of fees such as ATM use. Interest bearing accounts typically require a minimum balance.
Transfer Between Acct. Fees Often no charge for transfers or charge a fee after a minimum number of transfers.
Earns Interest Rates vary, as can the interest payment and accrual method.
Monthly Service Charge Some are free, others charge $5-$12 monthly fees. Interest bearing accounts may charge a fee if you fall below the minimum required balance.
Check Writing Fees Often free or small per check fee ($.10) or charge for checks over a limited number of free checks.
Purchase Checks Typically the account holder purchases checks unless a member of a bank benefits package.
Monthly Statements Typically your choice of either paper statements or e-statements online.
ATM Fees Often small or no transaction fee from your own bank. May incur fees for transactions outside your network, both from your bank and the ATM owned by the other bank. Be cautious of where you use your card.
Online Banking Services
Monthly Fees Often free or a small monthly fee.
Statements/Check Images Typically includes free E-statements emailed monthly or downloadable e-statements.
Bill Pay Services Often free or a small monthly fee. Allows you to schedule payments to be withdrawn from your account. Be sure you have adequate funds available on payment dates.
Direct Deposit Very convenient; may provide immediate access to your funds. Banks may lower or eliminate monthly account fees if you are a direct depositor.
Overdraft Fees (Insufficient Funds) Fees can be costly if you overdraw your account. Beware: with some banks, you may still be able to use your debit cards even with insufficient funds in your account and incur overdraft fees. Some banks let your purchase overdraft protection services.
FDIC Insured See below.

Youth Accounts

Youth accounts provide low minimum balances ($1-$5) for minors. An adult is responsible for the account (called custodial) and must open the account on behalf of the minor (a child 18 or younger). Savings accounts are often a better option if the child makes few monthly transactions.

Be Sure Your Deposits Are Insured

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ( FDIC) guarantees bank deposits up to $250,000 per relationship. Multiple accounts at the same FDIC-insured bank can be structured to attain a much higher level of deposit insurance coverage. FDIC Coverage is only used if a bank fails. A bank normally fails only after losing most or all of its own equity capital through poor or risky management.

Smart Reasons to Have a Checking Account

  • Easily manage your money.
  • Keep money safe and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
  • Ability to pay with a check at most businesses with a valid ID.
  • Use canceled checks as proof of payment.
  • Use a debit card instead of paying with checks.
  • Money is insured by the federal government (FDIC) up to specified dollar amounts.