How I Pick a Checking Account

So there’ve been stories here and there in the news about banks increasing fees for checking accounts, either by no longer making them free, by adding “gotcha!” fees, or both.  Since there will probably be a few people looking around for new, less punitive checking accounts, I thought I’d share my process for looking for a checking account.

First, I make a wish list of what matters most to me in a checking account.  You should, too.  It helps keep your search on track and prevents bank employees from getting you off topic or distracting you with shiny things when you go to the bank to sign up.  Here’s my list:

  • No fees
  • Deliriously high interest
  • Reasonably low minimum balance
  • Online banking
  • Bank ATMs that are both handy and accept deposits
  • Online bill pay
  • Ease of obtaining a human on the phone
  • Free debit card use
  • Free ATM withdrawals anywhere in the U.S.

Those are my requirements for a good checking account.  Yours will be different, of course.  Also, some of these are a little mutually exclusive.  For example, getting high interest on a checking account usually means a monthly fee.  Usually.

Now, how to find this noble beast?  To the internet!  Allow me to showcase the sites I use to look for checking accounts*:

  1.  I found my current bank through this website, although, when I opened the account, it was through the bank’s portal, not the CheckingFinder website.  The site bills itself as a source of checking accounts that yield high interest and have low minimum balances.  There are definitely terms and qualifications that you need to fully understand before you sign up.  I think the accounts are a little complex, but they may fit your lifestyle.
  2.  I like to peruse this site every once in a while.  They are one of the more popular bank comparison websites on the internet.  The have a handy checking account search that creates a nice ranking of accounts for you to look through.  They also have a rating system for bank entities that they bill as the Safe & Sound® Star Ratings.  They have all sorts of terms for that on their website, which you’ll want to take a look at.
  3. Individual Bank Sites:  I find it worthwhile to examine what’s available through the bank’s website before I go to the branch to talk to a representative.  There are many websites that will help you find your banks website.  Be careful, though, and make sure the address for the site you’re visiting is actually the bank’s real website, and not an imitation.

I used these resources to find a checking account I’m currently very happy with when I moved to Arkansas to work here.  I hope this works for you, too.

*Remember, this is the internet, so use the good sense your mother gave you when evaluating websites, banks, and the terms the offer.  Also, we don’t receive any compensation from these links.

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