5 Questions to Ask When Searching for the Best Free Checking Accounts


When opening a new checking account, you may feel overwhelmed by all the different options. Choosing the best one will really pay off down the line. Picking the wrong one, however, could cost you too much time and money. Your checking account is the account you will likely use the most, so it needs to be a very carefully made decision.

One option many people turn to is to open a free checking account. These are more commonly found at community-based financial institutions like credit unions. This is because credit unions are owned by members, while larger financial institutions are primarily concerned about making a profit. Read on to find some expert tips for ending up with the best free checking accounts.

  1. Are there any fees?

Ask about fees. If there are any, what are they? The best free checking accounts will, as the name implies, have no monthly fees or service charges. That’s one of the main reasons they’re so popular. Monthly fees can really add up, so this will enable you to keep as much money in your account as possible.

However, not every checking account that’s advertised as free does this. Some financial institutions may have certain catches. For instance, they may only offer no monthly fees under certain circumstances or if you sign up for a specific service. If this is the case, make sure you know about the requirements before officially opening the account.

And what about ATM fees? If you have to use an ATM out of your financial institution’s network, you will often be charged a small fee after each transaction. The best free checking accounts will refund ATM fees charged. Some will cover any of these fees, while others will have a set limit.

Another fee many can overlook is overdraft fees. These fees are a sort of punishment if you try to take out more money than you have in your account. The best free credit accounts won’t have overdraft fees or will offer options to help protect account holders. At Rivermark Community Credit Union, we offer overdraft protection. This will add money to your account to cover the transaction.

Finally, look out for monthly statement fees. If the account does include these fees, see if there’s an option to go paperless instead.

  1. Does the free checking account have any requirements?

Are there requirements? For instance, do you need a certain credit score to be considered for the account? A very important thing to note is whether there are any minimum deposit or balance requirements. Do you need to put down a certain amount of money to open the account? And once you have the account, is there a minimum amount that always needs to be in it? These will depend on the financial institution. If customers don’t meet these requirements, they may be charged a fee. The best free checking accounts don’t have this. In addition to saving you money, this takes away the worry of making sure you maintain a certain balance at all times.

  1. Does the checking account have the features you want?

What are the products and different features offered? These can include different online and mobile banking features that make managing your free checking account much easier and more convenient.

What are the account’s interest rates? Even if checking accounts don’t build up as much interest as savings accounts, a decent interest rate will pay off. Some interest-bearing free checking accounts pay up to 2.00% APY. It’s another way that free checking accounts help you save up money.

What rewards, extras, or bonuses are available? Many financial institutions reward customers for good behavior. These rewards can include better interest rates, airline miles, free debit cards, or more ATM refunds. When considering a free checking account, ask about what different bonuses are offered, and if they seem too good to be true, check whether there are any catches.

  1. What protections are offered?

How is your money going to be kept safe? The best free checking accounts will insure your deposits, often through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) coverage. Usually, your account will be insured for about $250,000. If you want more information on this, the website NerdWallet has many guides and references to help those choosing a type of account, and including an explanation of how FDIC and NCUA insurance work.

  1. What’s best for you?

Finally, ask yourself what will make it the best free checking account for you? Each individual has different needs and preferences, as well as their own habits and financial goals. What makes a checking account best for one person doesn’t mean it’s the best for you. Are you a frequent ATM visitor? Then the ATM refunds should be a priority. Do you prefer paperless? Then make sure you can get e-statements and complete numerous transactions online or through a mobile app.

Keep in mind that the best free checking accounts will come from financial institutions that have great customer service and support. This also can mean having a well-designed website or app or being easily accessible. When a financial institution shows they actually care about and want to help their customers, you can rest assured they’ll offer great accounts. This is one of the many reasons people prefer to open free checking accounts with credit unions. Credit unions have much more personalized customer service.

Here at Rivermark Community Credit Union, we believe we offer the best free checking accounts in the Portland area. Our free checking accounts have no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements, overdraft protection, and ATM refunds. And these are only a few of the advantages. You can find out more information about our free checking accounts and different account options on our website. If you’re not already a member, you can apply to join us from our website as well.

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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