Pros and Cons of a Premium Checking Account

Quick Answer

Premium checking accounts offer a variety of benefits including waived fees, loan discounts, higher interest rates on linked accounts and more. To avoid paying a monthly fee, you’ll need to maintain a fairly high balance each month.

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Checking accounts offer a place to store your money for easy, everyday access. To get benefits beyond basic deposits and withdrawals, a premium checking account may be a good option. A premium checking account offers access to perks like waived fees and possibly lower loan interest rates, but often requires a high minimum balance. Weigh the benefits and drawbacks to see if a premium checking account might be right for you.

What Is a Premium Checking Account?

A premium checking account is a higher-tier checking account that offers more features and perks than a regular checking account. Premium checking accounts are usually interest-bearing and offer waived fees, discounts on loans and access to priority customer service and wealth advisors.

You'll usually need to maintain a high balance—often at least $15,000—to avoid paying monthly fees. Meeting the minimum balance may be easier than you think. You can often combine balances from linked accounts, including investment and retirement accounts, to meet the requirement for opening a premium account or having the monthly fee waived.

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Pros of Premium Checking Accounts

Opening a premium checking account offers many benefits. While specific features may vary by bank, the most common benefits include:

Lower Fees

Premium bank accounts commonly waive out-of-network ATM and overdraft fees and offer discounts on services such as wire transfers, cashier's checks and foreign transactions. If you use these services regularly, you can save on banking costs by upgrading your checking account.

Higher Transaction Limits

Premium checking accounts may provide greater flexibility for accessing your money with higher daily or weekly purchase and ATM withdrawal limits. Higher transaction limits prevent you from running into trouble if you need to access a large amount of money for an emergency or expensive purchase.

Access to Premium Benefits

Customers with premium checking accounts enjoy a variety of services, such as priority customer service, access to wealth advisors and global support.

Ability to Earn Interest

Premium checking account balances typically earn interest, helping your balance grow faster compared to a basic checking account. Some banks also offer higher rates on linked savings and investment accounts, maximizing your interest earnings.

Cons of Premium Checking Accounts

There are a few disadvantages of premium checking accounts to consider before upgrading.

High Minimum Balance Requirements

You'll need to maintain a higher balance, or you'll be charged a monthly fee. With some banks, balances across multiple accounts—such as savings and investment accounts—can be combined to satisfy the balance requirement.

Benefits May Be Tied to Balance

Premium checking accounts with tiered benefits may restrict the top perks to customers with higher balances. Even after meeting the minimum balance requirement, you may still need a balance of six figures or more to access the most appealing benefits.

Interest Rates May Not Be Competitive

Premium checking account rates are often meager, especially when compared with other deposit account options such as a high-yield savings account or a money market account. If you have a lower balance, you may not earn enough to offset the monthly fee.

Is a Premium Checking Account Worth It?

For those who qualify, a premium checking account offers more on everyday banking. If you're loyal to your bank, opening a premium checking account offers a variety of benefits.

A premium checking account may be worth it if:

  • You have multiple accounts at the same bank. Monthly account maintenance fees are waived if you can maintain a high balance across all your linked accounts.
  • You make multiple out-of-network ATM withdrawals each month. Many banks waive their out-of-network ATM fees and refund fees charged by other banks. There may be a limit on the number of withdrawals that qualify for a fee waiver, however.
  • You're considering a new loan. If you have certain loans, like mortgages or auto loans, at the same bank where you have a premium checking account, you may qualify for an interest rate discount that can save you on overall loan costs.
  • You want personalized financial or investment advice. Premium checking accounts may offer access to free or reduced cost financial planning and wealth management services, which can be valuable if you have a lot of assets to manage.

How to Open a Premium Checking Account

Opening a premium checking account is similar to a traditional bank account.

Complete an Application

If you're upgrading an existing account, you can apply online and start with a pre-filled application since the bank has most of your information on file. Applying over the phone and in-person may also be options.

When you open a premium checking account with a new bank, you'll complete an application providing some personal and financial information, such as:

  • Your name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Physical address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Proof of identity; for example, a state-issued driver's license or passport
  • Employment status
  • Income source

If you're opening a joint account, your co-applicant must provide the same information. Students applying for a premium checking account will need to provide proof of enrollment.

Make Your Initial Deposit

After you're approved to open an account, you can make your initial deposit using a bank account or debit card number to transfer money from another account. Because premium checking accounts often require a high minimum deposit, you'll need to have enough cash on hand—or enough held in linked accounts—to satisfy the minimums.

The Bottom Line

Opening a premium checking account is worth it for those who can meet the high minimum balance requirement and take advantage of the benefits. Otherwise, the benefits may not be worth paying a monthly fee.

A healthy checking account is just one part of keeping your financial life in order. Check your credit report and credit score from Experian to ensure you're making the right money moves.