If your bank has started adding monthly fees to maintain your checking account, you have other options. Here are five ways to obtain free checking.
Finally, "when your method of doing your banking is entirely on the Web or over the phone, customer service is crucial," Schmansky says. "Call customer service a few times to judge its responsiveness."
According to CUNA's 2011-2012 Credit Union Fees Survey Report, 79 percent of the group's members that offer checking accounts offer them for free. To find a credit union that offers free checking in your area, check the local phone book, contact your state's credit union association or use the credit union finder on the CUNA website. While credit unions traditionally have served only those in a limited group, such as employees of a certain company, standards have changed and many credit unions are open to other residents of their local communities.
CapitalOne, one of the largest issuers of credit cards, makes up for lost fees in free checking accounts with the high return rates from its credit card operation, Mack says. And insurance companies like Allstate, State Farm and Nationwide, which primarily exist to sell insurance, attract customers to their specialty banks with free checking.
In addition to free checking, some banks offer employees of public companies additional corporate services like higher rates on savings accounts, Fuest says. Many employees with smaller balances can take advantage of higher interest rates that would typically only be available to very high-balance saving accounts.
If you're worried about security, most network-branded prepaid cards come with protective agreements that do not hold the cardholder liable for lost or stolen cards, Wright says. They're also easy to get. Most can be purchased and reloaded with funds online or at more than 200,000 retail stores nationwide.