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Stop Paying Bank Account Fees – Best Banks with Free Checking

Is your bank charging you a ton of fees for account maintenance, withdrawing your own money, or writing more than two checks per month? If so you aren’t alone, as most “name-brand” popular banks are coming up with anything they can to charge you fees for. While complaining loudly may make some account holders feel better about the fees, it won’t make the banks stop charging them! I used to bank with Bank of America and I felt like I was being dinged every week for any little thing I wanted from my bank, so I changed to a much better bank which I will talk about a little later in this post. But before I get to that, let’s take a quick look at the kind of fees and penalties that three popular banks are charging their customers, and then we’ll see what we can do to move away from them and into a much better banking relationship.

First up, let’s look at Chase Bank. Chase’s standard checking account is called Chase Total Checking and offers the following perks and requirements upon signing up:

  • Free Debit Card
  • Free Online Banking and Bill Pay
  • Free Access to more than 16,100 Chase ATMs
  • $25 minimum deposit to open an account
  • No monthly service fee with a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more or with a $1,500 minimum daily balance, otherwise there is a $10 monthly service fee
  • The fee for non-Chase ATM for inquiries, transfers, or withdrawals is $2.00, plus whatever the ATM owner charges for services

There are assorted other fees listed on their website, but most banking customers will be dinged with these above any others. While free online bill pay and free access to so many ATM’s is nice, having an account with Chase could still cost you some of your hard-earned money every single month.

Next, let’s look at America’s biggest bank, Bank of America. I was a customer of theirs for many, many years, and I never had trouble finding a branch to walk in to, even in some of the most remote places I visited. Their regular checking account is called Standard Checking and includes the following items and requirements:

  • Free online bill pay/banking
  • Free debit card
  • Keep the Change savings program, helping account owners save a little extra money
  • Access to 18,000 Bank of America ATMs
  • Non-Bank of America ATM withdrawals are $2.00, plus whatever the ATM owner charges for services
  • There is a $100 minimum deposit to open an account
  • The minimum daily balance in checking must be $1,500 or more or the monthly service charge is $14.00

Bank of America is huge and they are everywhere. But when you check out all the fees you could be charged for different transactions or needs, you start to understand just how much you could be paying for the privilege of accessing your own money.

And lastly, let’s check out Wells Fargo bank. Their basic checking is called Value Checking and has the following:

  • Free online banking and mobile banking
  • Free debit card
  • Minimum opening deposit of $100
  • Free access to 12,000 Wells Fargo and Wachovia ATMs
  • Monthly service fee of $5 per month unless account has direct deposit or an average daily balance of $1,500
  • Non-Wells Fargo ATM withdrawals are $2.50 each, plus whatever the ATM owner charges for services

Wells Fargo is popular with some of my friends who don’t seem to have any issues with them, but I don’t like how many fees they have come up with to charge for different services.

After looking at the above three banks, you can see that having an account with any of them could cost you some money each and every month, depending on your personal banking habits. So what’s the alternative to the Big Three? Well, you have two – one I don’t have too much familiarity with and one that I do. Let’s look at both.

Credit Unions

Credit Unions (find one near you) exist in almost every major town or city and can cater to both the public and/or particular employees of county governments or private businesses. Credit Unions are owned and controlled by its members, and usually offer financial services at better rates and less fees than typical for-profit banks. Account holders are “members” of the bank and thus participate in board elections. These kinds of banks benefit local communities much more than the big chain banks, and usually offer a better “bang for the buck” to account holders. If you have a local credit union that is open to the public, I highly recommend you check out what they offer and compare it to your current bank. I believe you will find the CU is much better.

Charles Schwab Bank

Most well-known as an investment house, Charles Schwab also has a bank that you can join. I joined a while ago and won’t ever go back to my Bank of America days. While I have a checking account which pays interest, Schwab has the following on their Basic Checking accounts:

  • $0 minimum to open an account
  • Free unlimited check writing
  • Free debit/check card
  • Free use/rebates of fees of any ATM in the US
  • Free checks
  • Free online banking/bill pay

So even if they seem like a big bank and their name can be seen everywhere, you don’t get charged account maintenance fees or minimum account balance penalties like other banks. Plus, checks and the use of any ATM at any bank is free, which is a big bonus for someone like me who is constantly moving around.

If you are paying ridiculous bank fees, it’s definitely time to shop around and move your money to a bank that won’t nickel and dime you to death. There are plenty of options out there to choose from, so start looking for a better relationship with your bank today!

(photo credit: Omar Omar)


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