Most people use their checking account as a main tool to receive income, pay bills and make purchases. For many, their checking account represents the foundation of personal finances and is the link to other financial accounts that they use for money transfers. What people tend to forget is the fact that in the beginning, checking accounts didn’t charge fees. However, this changed and today, account holders from almost every large bank face a hefty amount of fees. These bank fees cover monthly maintenance, overdraft, card replacement, ATM and international ATM transfers to name a few.
Here, we will cover the details of what makes a free-checking account free and explain how the big banks are actually taking our money to give us our money. As strange as it sounds, this is the way banks function and why they are able to report billions of dollars of profit every year.
What Are Free Checking Accounts & How do They Benefit Consumers?
The banking system in the US uses outdated methods of banking. Burdening the common consumer with unnecessary fees is one of the things banks do to increase their profit. Banks often set complicated standards for consumers that are difficult to achieve and maintain, like high minimum balance requirements that aren’t feasible for many customers. Monthly maintenance fees and overdraft fees (among others) are becoming outdated, as free checking accounts are making their way to the market.
Free checking accounts are designed to have zero fees or no hidden charges and conditions that complicate your financial freedom. While some of the benefits provided by the traditional banking system may seem tempting to people The need for a free checking account is real, and it is only a matter of time until these types of accounts replace the ones burdened with fees. If you are searching for an account that you can use for paying bills, receiving paychecks, transferring money across accounts, withdrawing cash from a large number of fee-free ATMs and receiving cash-back rewards from several thousands of locations without all the fees, then you need to read this article to examine the best available options, explore our list of the best free checking accounts of 2019.
Understanding Annual Percentage Yield (APY) When Choosing a Checking Account
Before we begin the comparison, it is important to define annual percentage yield, or APY. APY is interest that’s earned by having money in your debit or savings account. A larger APY means that you’ll earn more money as you let your account balance grow. Since checking account balances tend to fluctuate, APY is usually more of a priority when it comes to choosing a savings account, but that doesn’t mean you should turn down a high APY checking account, just make sure you read the fine print. There are usually high minimum balance requirements tied to them.
Chase Total Checking Account
A Chase Total Checking Account offers customers many benefits. There are more than 5,000 physical branches, a highly-rated mobile app, plus a $200 signup bonus for new members. Chase Total Checking members also have access to 16,000+ ATMs.
Because of the $12 monthly maintenance fee, it is not exactly free, but Chase Bank does offer ways to avoid this fee. For the bank to waive their maintenance fee, the account holder must have monthly direct deposits totaling $500 minimum in monthly direct deposits or keep a minimum daily balance of $1,500, in their checking account. One more way to waive this monthly maintenance fee is to keep an average daily balance of $5,000 or more in any combination of qualifying Chase checking, savings and other balances, but this implies that the person already has accounts affiliated with Chase. Pros for Chase are 5000+ physical branches, solid mobile app for banking online and a $200 sign up bonus. As for the ATMs, the 16000 ATMs does not sound bad, however, always check if there are ATMs available near your place of residence. The APY is low and similar to the rest of traditional banks so the chance to earn through interest with this account is not great.
BBVA Compass ClearConnect Free Checking Account
The BBVA Compass ClearConnect Free Checking account gives members access to more than 55,000 AllPoint and BBVA Compass no withdrawal fees ATMs worldwide, making it ideal for customers looking for an account that offers the most fee-free ATMs. Account holders will also enjoy no monthly service charge and free paperless banking.
Unfortunately BBVA’s Compass ClearConnect Free Checking account has a minimum opening deposit of $25. Customers who still want access to physical branches, are also limited to only a portion of states as BBVA Compass has branches in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Texas. The number of fee-free ATMs you can use with this account is 12,000 but there is an option for opting to use non-network ATMs free. This comes with a price of $5 per month and returns us to a loop of paying money to get our money. Neither one of these offers any APY rates, so there is no ability to earn interest using the BBVA Compass free checking accounts.
PNC Standard Checking Account
The PNC Standard Checking account gives customers access to around 9,000 ATMs from the PNC network that are fee-free, so be sure to check if you live in a place where you can easily find an ATM machine connected to your bank.
The PNC Standard Checking account has a $7 monthly service fee, but if you can meet a certain requirement, you avoid this fee. These requirements include making a $500 amount in direct deposits per statement year, or has a $500 average monthly balance on the standard checking account; or if they are of age 62 or older. Keep in mind there is also a $36 overdraft fee and standard mandatory $25 deposit to open a checking account.
Simple Checking Account by Citibank
Citibank gives people an option to open a basic banking package called Simple Checking. Citibank has a large amount of ATMs all across the US and with close to 35,000 ATMs, there should be no problem in finding one.
This account has a $12 monthly service fee and there are three options to avoid it. To waive this fee, customers can make one qualifying direct deposit and one qualifying bill payment per statement period, or maintain a $1500 combined average monthly balance in eligible linked accounts. The final option is to fulfill the 62+ age requirement. There is an overdraft fee of $34, but there is a $10 per month charge option to activate the overdraft protection system.
Chime Bank: A No Fee Mobile Checking Account. Seriously.
One of the best free checking accounts available is the Chime Bank online banking account. It offers great online banking options with an easy to use mobile app. When you open a Chime account, you receive a checking account and a savings account, along with access to over 38,000 fee-free ATMs and cash-back locations you can use. There is no monthly maintenance fee, no minimum balance requirements, no overdraft fees and no minimum opening deposits.
To help its users save money, Chime also offers an automatic savings feature that rounds purchases to the nearest dollar and deposits the difference into users’ savings accounts. An optional automatic savings deposit of ten percent of each paycheck is also available, along with early direct deposit so customers can receive their paychecks up to two days early.
Final Results: Make the Switch to Chime For a True No Fee Banking Experience
Even though we are in an era of vast technological breakthroughs, there is still a large window for banking expansion and improvement. The banking system should be working for the people and not using tricks and hidden fees to take money from consumers. Better options are arising, with Chime leading the way as a checking account with zero fees and no hidden charges.