Checking accounts without fees are invaluable, and finding the best one for you involves looking at factors beyond just avoiding a monthly cost. Looking at exemptions you qualify for, online banking options, additional features, and ease of access can not only help you find a great free checking account, but one that's easy to use and can give you useful options for opening different types of accounts.
Look at Fees and Exemptions
Some checking accounts are advertised as free, but only if you meet certain conditions. For example, a checking account may be free if you make at least one direct deposit per month or if you keep a balance over a certain amount. If you don't meet these requirements you could be subjected to monthly fees. When looking at account services at different banks, take care to read the fine print and see if the account would actually be free for you. It may also be worth talking to someone at the bank to see if you might qualify for any additional fee waivers or exemptions.
Explore Convenience and Availability
A free checking account should be easily accessible in ways that you need. For example, beyond just being able to manage your account at a brick and mortar location, it's also helpful to be able to manage it online and even with an app. Apart from looking at how easily you can manage your account, look at things like ATM locations and terms. Some banks have wide networks of ATMs while others may waive or reimburse fees from out-of-network ATMs. If you travel, or if you need to make withdrawals or deposits away from brick and mortar locations, this could be very important.
Finally, if you have a credit card, look at checking accounts with that bank. They may offer special terms for you as an existing customer, and it can also make it much more convenient for you to pay off your credit card balance if both accounts are with the same bank.
Look For Features You Want
Additional features and offers can sometimes make all the difference between otherwise similar accounts. For example, some banks can offer cash rewards for opening a checking account, and some banks may offer long-term loyalty perks like savings and retirement accounts. If you plan to eventually open these kinds of accounts, looking at what else comes with your checking account is a good idea. Further, look up reviews for information like the quality of customer service and how long transfers take from different services. If you rely on quick transfers to get money into your checking account from other institutions, slow transfers can be a deal breaker.
Location can be important when opening a checking account if you need to regularly access bank services in person. If you need to deposit paper checks, access ATMs, or complete other transactions at the bank itself, look at where different branches are located. If they are nearby, or if they are positioned conveniently near public transit routes, it may be a good option. If it will take a significant amount of time to travel to, however, you may be better off looking elsewhere.