When it comes to personal checking accounts, most people have a pretty standard idea about what is important. Things like no monthly maintenance fee and free check writing are usually high on the list of priorities for most people.
But there are other criteria that you should also consider when choosing your personal checking account. These factors can have a big impact on how useful that account will be in your everyday life. Presenting a variety of features and benefits is standard practice among banks and credit unions that offer personal checking accounts.
However, not all of them are created equal. It’s important to understand which qualities are most important to you so you can choose the best one that fits your needs.
The following eight qualities can help you find the best bank checking accounts for you:
1. No Monthly Fees
Most people start their search for a new checking account with the monthly maintenance fee. For good reason: A $10, $15, or $25 monthly fee can add up to a lot of money every year. A monthly fee is equivalent to paying interest on your own money. You don’t need to be making purchases with your checking account to suffer from a monthly maintenance fee.
As such, it’s important to find an account that has no monthly maintenance fee. If two banks have comparable perks, go with the one that doesn’t charge a monthly fee. You want to make sure that you don’t spend more than you make.
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2. Easy To Use Online Banking Platform
You’ll want to be able to quickly and easily log in to your online banking platform whenever you want to check your account balance or make a transfer. If your checking account requires you to enter a complex password that you’re likely to forget, then you should probably look for an alternative.
You should also be able to easily transfer money between your checking account and other accounts that you have at the same bank. For example, you could set it up so that a set amount is automatically transferred from your checking account to your savings account each month.
This convenience will allow you to use online banking to set up bill payment for everything from your internet bill to your car insurance. Your online banking platform should also have a mobile app so you can use many of these features while you’re on the go.
3. Strong ATM Network
A debit card’s ATM network is another important consideration when looking for a new checking account. The easiest way to withdraw money from your checking account is at an ATM. However, it’s important to know which ATMs you can use before signing up for a new account.
You can use your debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs that belong to your bank and ATMs that belong to other banks that are part of your debit card’s network. Note that when you use another bank’s ATM, you’ll often be charged a fee. Some banks charge a higher fee than others. Nonetheless, it’s important to research your bank’s ATM network before signing up for an account.
4. Unlimited Fee-free ATM Withdrawals
As opposed to a checking account that gives you a limited number of free ATM withdrawals per month, an unlimited number of fee-free ATM withdrawals is always best. You never know when you might need to withdraw cash from an ATM.
For example, if your car breaks down, or you need to pay for a medical bill that insurance hasn’t yet covered. An unlimited number of fee-free ATM withdrawals can come in handy for these types of unexpected situations. It can also help you avoid costly overdraft fees when your checking account doesn’t have enough money in it to cover a large withdrawal.
5. Free Cheques (Or a Monthly Cheque Supply)
Some banks will let you use your checking account to pay bills. Others will offer cheques that you can use to pay bills. However, there are also a few banks that will give you free cheques. This can help save money on paying bills because you won’t have to buy pre-written cheques at the store.
Many people don’t use cheques at all. However, if you like writing cheques, it’s important to find a bank that will give you free cheques. This is especially important if you use your checking account to pay bills.
6. Credit Option With No APR Or A Very Low One
A checking account with a line of credit can be a useful tool to have in your financial arsenal. Credit unions are the only financial institutions that can offer you a line of credit tied to your checking account. The best bank checking accounts will let you use a high credit line to pay off bills or make purchases without having to pull money out of your checking account.
7. Free Electronic Transactions
It’s important to find a checking account that offers free electronic transactions. This is usually a bill payment service that you can access from your computer or mobile device.
You should also be able to schedule bills to be paid either on a regular basis or one-time-only. It can be very convenient to be able to pay bills directly from your checking account. However, some banks charge a fee for this service so it’s important to look for a checking account that offers free electronic transactions.
8. Easy To Access and Understand Monthly Statements
You should always be able to easily access and understand your monthly statement without having to spend a lot of time reading through the details. You should be able to see your balance, recent debit and/or credit transactions, and the amount of interest you’ve earned on your account.
Monthly statements are how banks and credit unions communicate with their account holders. Unfortunately, many of them use complicated jargon and graphics to communicate with their account holders.
Choosing the best checking account is a lot like choosing the best car: You have to figure out what’s important to you, then find the model that best meets your needs. Some checking accounts will meet all of your criteria and some won’t. That said, it’s important to choose an account that has the qualities that are most important to you.