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Banking

Checking Accounts That Pay You Cash

FDIC-insured online banks offer consumer deals.

Web checking accounts boasting high interest rates (recently 6% at Monroe Bank and Trust) are popping up like daffodils. Interest rates may drop with the Federal Reserve's cuts in the federal funds rate. But at a recent 2.25%, FDIC-insured ING Direct was paying almost five times the national average of 0.47% for checking accounts at brick-and-mortar banks, according to a survey by Informa Research Services.

Among the most attractive accounts are those offered by brokerages Schwab and Fidelity and by online-only banks. But the Web also allows you to sign up with far-flung community banks that offer competitive deals.

Most banks offer free checking and online bill payment (at Everbank, you need a minimum of $1,500 for free bill paying). Schwab, Fidelity and City National Bank even include free paper checks. With HSBC Direct, however, you can't write a check. ING Direct doesnÕt offer checks, either, but the bank will cut and mail one for you.

Online Banking Deals

City National Bank Reward Checking

Everbank FreeNet Checking

Fidelity mySmart Cash Account

HSBC Direct Online Payment Account

ING Direct Electric Orange

Monroe Bank and Trust Ultra High Interest Performance Checking

Salem Five eOne account

Univest National Bank Anytime Online Checking

Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking

You can often open an account with as little as $1, and none of the banks requires more than $100. There are no minimum-balance requirements for basic checking, although you may be asked to arrange for direct deposit or to use your debit card a specified number of times each month. Electronic bank statements are universal.

None of the banks charges for ATM withdrawals, and Schwab, Fidelity and City National Bank reimburse all ATM surcharges. You can avoid fees at ING Direct and UnivestDirect if you use ATMs in the surcharge-free Allpoint network. Other banks reimburse fees up to a given amount each month.