Making Your Money Last

How to Nix Checking Fees

Strictly free accounts aren’t the only way to bank - almost all banks and credit unions offer ways around paying fees.

Free checking is getting even easier to find, ac­cording to Bankrate’s 2021 study of checking account and ATM fees. In the survey of 245 banks and thrifts in 25 large U.S. markets, 48% of non-interest-bearing checking accounts were fee-free, the highest number since 2010. And if you are looking for a checking account that pays a bit of interest, 7.6% of those were free, too.

Free checking is generally described as an account that has no minimum-balance requirements, no monthly fees and no activity-use rules that require, for example, that you use your debit card 10 or more times each month. But free doesn’t mean that the account doesn’t charge overdraft or non-network ATM fees. Bankrate found that the average overdraft fee hit a record $33.58 in 2021. However, the average non-network ATM fee dropped again, to $1.51.

But strictly free accounts aren’t the only way to bank. Almost all banks and credit unions offer ways around paying any fees. The most common way to avoid paying an account fee is to have direct deposit. Another way is to maintain a minimum balance.

For example, Chase, which won gold in Kiplinger’s annual best national bank rankings, waives account fees on various accounts. With its popular Total Checking, you can avoid the $12 monthly fee if you have at least $500 in electronic deposits, keep a checking balance of at least $1,500 or have $5,000 or more in combined balances among Chase deposit and investment accounts. (To see more best banks, go to kiplinger.com/kpf/bestbanks21.) If you’re searching for a new account, start at www.depositaccounts.com and select “Free Checking Accounts” under the Checking Accounts navigation tab. Next, use the banking behavior box to narrow the selections. For example, you can input your lowest and highest monthly balance amounts, how often you use your debit card, and whether you plan to receive direct deposits or electronic statements.

Most Popular

Don’t Be Tricked Into Voluntarily Paying Higher Taxes on Your IRA
IRAs

Don’t Be Tricked Into Voluntarily Paying Higher Taxes on Your IRA

Traditional IRAs are set up in a way that basically incentivizes you (and your heirs) into paying the highest tax bill possible. Don’t fall for it. Co…
July 4, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
The 15 Best Stocks for the Rest of 2022
stocks to buy

The 15 Best Stocks for the Rest of 2022

The lesson of the past two years: Be ready for anything. Our 15 best stocks to buy for the rest of 2022 reflect several possible outcomes for the seco…
June 21, 2022

Recommended

Financial Advice from America’s Founding Fathers
credit & debt

Financial Advice from America’s Founding Fathers

What money-management guidance can we glean from the words — and experience — of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and others?
June 30, 2022
When Will Student Loans Be Forgiven?
Paying for College

When Will Student Loans Be Forgiven?

Millions of Americans are waiting for the Biden Administration’s next hint, which could come later this summer, at how he’ll address the student loan …
June 27, 2022
Best National Banks
banking

Best National Banks

These large, brick-and-mortar institutions have branches in several states (as well as online banking), so they’re solid choices if in-person assista…
June 23, 2022
Best Banks for Retirees
banking

Best Banks for Retirees

With these institutions, retirees avoid pesky fees on checks and paper statements and have access to an array of additional wealth and investment serv…
June 23, 2022