Completely free checking accounts are not easy to find these days. Today, most banks and credit unions charge some sort of maintenance fee unless your account meets certain requirements, such as maintaining a minimum balance or receiving direct deposits. While they may be a bit challenging to track down, there are still several ways you can get a free checking account.
How Can I Get a Free Checking Account?
When looking for a free checking account, it's important to examine the fees charged by the bank or credit union—and what you can do to have those fees waived. For example, a bank may charge a $10 monthly maintenance fee for an interest-earning checking account, but waive it if you keep an average daily balance of $500 each month. Others will waive fees if you limit the number of times you use your debit card or write checks in a month.
Unlike most for-profit banks, some credit unions offer free checking accounts. However, you must qualify to join the credit union, and it may not offer as many branches as a large national bank. Credit unions might also have shorter hours than banks and may have more limited technology.
What if I Get Denied for a Checking Account?
While you don't need to have good credit to open a checking account, most banks and credit unions will screen applicants before allowing them to open an account. To do this, most use a report from a debit reporting bureau called ChexSystems. While credit reports show payment history and other information from various credit sources, debit reporting bureaus look at your history with past banks.
ChexSystems uses information submitted by banks and credit unions to help determine whether you are a risk for things such as account overdrafts, unsettled balances, fraudulent check deposits, and other suspicious activity. If the bank evaluating the report doesn't like what it sees, you could be denied a checking account.
If you've been denied a checking account, you should closely examine your ChexSystems report. Debit bureaus are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which requires them to provide you with an annual copy of your report. Once you have a copy of that report, you can learn why you were unable to open the account and make sure the report is accurate.
While most checking accounts aren't free these days, it's not impossible to find them or to take steps to have your monthly fees waived. By learning all of the possible fees that the bank you're approaching charges, and how you may be able to avoid them, you can make sure that all the money you deposit in your account is yours to keep.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
This article was originally published on January 9, 2019, and has been updated.