Free checking accounts getting scarce
Just 65 percent of noninterest accounts were free from monthly fees or balance requirements, the hallmark of a free checking account. That's down from last year, when 76 percent of checking accounts were free, and it reverses a trend of free checking accounts grabbing a steadily larger share of U.S. bank offerings.
Still, the news isn't all bad for consumers. When you add in accounts that can be free under conditions such as agreeing to make direct deposits or to carry a debit card, the total number of accounts offering free checking rises to 88 percent, McBride says.
Tip: Those consumers who find they no longer have free checking accounts may not even need to switch banks to find a better deal, says McBride. Many banks offer multiple types of checking accounts; you may be able to find free checking among your bank's other offerings. If not, you can use Bankrate's checking account database to shop around, either for a new bank or one of the vast majority of credit unions that still offer free checking.