Most of us use banks to store our money, unless you’re Walter White from Breaking Bad, then you’re probably storing it in your vents. But if you’re like the rest of us, you don’t want to store large quantities of cash in your home. So, you’re left with banking institutions.
Unfortunately, totally free checking accounts via the brick and mortar variety are fast disappearing. Many big banks offer “free” checking accounts with stipulations, e.g. minimum daily balance requirements, direct deposit requirements, etc. So how in the world do you get free checking these days? Fear not! I’ve compiled a list of banks that are still offering totally free checking accounts, without any crazy stipulations and no or low minimum opening deposit requirements.
TCF Bank: Brick and mortar bank in Midwestern states only. They still offer TOTALLY free checking. No monthly maintenance fees and no minimum balances. There is a $25 minimum opening deposit requirement. This is a great no-fuss (no big perks either) checking account.
Bank5 Connect: Online bank. It costs just $10 to open a totally free checking account. Balances over $100 will earn a 0.76% APY. They offer free ATM withdrawals and will reimburse you ATM fees incurred at other banking institutions (up to $15 per monthly statement).
Capital One 360: Online bank. No monthly maintenance fees. Earn interest on any balance greater than $0 (tiered interest increases with a higher daily balance). They offer 38,000 free ATMs nationwide. You do have to pass a credit check to open this account. I have a Capital One 360 Checking account and I love it. I opened it after being nickeled-and-dimed by my former brick and mortar bank. I was able to open this checking account with $1.
Ally Bank: Online bank. No monthly maintenance fees and no minimum opening deposit required. Earn interest on any balance over $0 (tiered interest increases with a higher daily balance). Thousands of free ATMs and they will reimburse you ATM fees incurred at other banking institutions (up to $10 per monthly statement). Mr. MyCountdown has both a savings and checking account here and he loves it.
USAA: Online bank. No monthly maintenance fees. There is a $25 minimum opening balance requirement except military, who has a $0 requirement. There are 60,000 free ATMs and they will reimburse you ATM fees incurred at other banking institutions (up to $15 per monthly statement). Earn interest on balances greater than $1000.
Nowadays, the best free banking features are typically found at online banks. If you’re not ready to give up being able to walk into a brick and mortar, a credit union may be for you. How does a credit union differ from a bank? The biggest difference is that credit unions are non-profit organizations and banks are of course, for profit organizations. Credit unions serve their members only. Members are groups of people with similar interests, be it church, work or a small community. The purpose is to serve a community in need, so this could potentially expand to include entire geographic areas. Surplus income is returned to the members in the form of dividends, unlike traditional banks who keep surplus for profits.
Banks are insured, up to $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC); so to are credit unions, well most are anyway. Over 98% of all credit unions are federally insured for up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF).
Credit unions are gaining favor due to their often totally free checking accounts, low minimum opening deposit requirements and higher interest rates offered.
Kiplinger compiled a list of credit unions that are available to anyone nationwide. For many of the credit unions on the list, living in a certain location or being employed in a certain field gives you access to join. If you don’t fall under the specified criteria, you can often donate to the credit union’s non-profit program of choice and gain membership.
Do you know of any great free checking to add to the list? Where do you do your banking? Would you ever consider an online bank?