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Checking the Details
The checking account you want is one that offers all the services you need with the greatest possible convenience at the least possible cost. Since most banks offer checking accounts – sometimes many varieties with different names, features, and fees – there's a lot to choose from. So you'll need to narrow your search.
Did you know? With 360 CheckingSM, online bill pay is always free. No fees. No kidding. Learn more
Bankrate.com is a great third-party resource for information about interest rates and fees on bank accounts, mortgages, credit cards, and more. www.bankrate.com
What do you want?
Ask yourself what an ideal checking account would provide.
- Want to pay your bills and manage your money quickly and when it is most convenient for you? Look for an online account with easy-to-use electronic bill pay, electronic check-writing, a debit card, and convenient ATMAutomatic Teller Machine access.
- Want to save while you're spending? Look for an account that pays high interest on your checking balance.
- Want overdraft protection? Look for a bank that provides a line of credit that helps you avoid fees if you spend more than the balance in your account. You don't want to bank without it, though expect to pay interest if you overdraw.
- Want to be fee-free? Look for a bank that doesn't tack on fees for essential (or even non-essential) services. That means no ATM fees, no debit card fees, no minimum balance fees, no monthly use fees, and no bill-pay fees. No fees. Period.
- Want to know what's happening in your account? Some banks notify you when a deposit is available to spend or funds are debited, via tellers, email, phone calls, mobile phone, or text messages.
Did you know?
With a 360 Checking overdraft line of credit, there's no NSF fee ever. All you pay is interest on any amounts transferred to your account to cover insufficient funds. Learn more
Fees, Fie, Fo, Fum
When you're comparing checking accounts, take a hard look at the fees you could end up paying. The more checking costs you, the less you'll have left to bank and ultimately save. With some accounts you may have to pay a monthly fee, a fee for each transaction, or sometimes a combination of monthly and per-use charges just to be able to spend your own money.
You can certainly avoid these charges. Some banks offer no-frills accounts with a certain number of free transactions each month — though anything over that limit may carry a charge. Other banks waive monthly fees as long as you have a big enough balance — but you may not earn interest.
But the best deal is an account with no monthly fees, no usage fees, no ATM fees, and no bill-pay fees.
Free lunch, free checking — and more…
Some banks don't set minimum balance requirements or charge a nonsufficient funds (NSF) fee — a charge for authorizing a transfer or withdrawal for more than your available balance. But be sure to check the fine print. You might find your free checking account ends up costing you a lot of money.