Checking Basics
pen writing a check and the corner of a $1 bill
Types of checking accounts

A checking account is usually the beginning of your financial life. Choosing one that is right for you will be easy once you've read this section.

Even though many checking accounts claim to be free, there might be some fees involved. This chapter explains the types of accounts, what fees you might be charged, how banks withdraw the money from your account, why banks no longer have to return your canceled checks to you, how bounce-protection plans work (and the consequences of being automatically enrolled in one) and how the banking industry uses ChexSystems to check on potential customers.

What can you expect to learn from this chapter:
  • Types of checking accounts
    There are lots of types of checking accounts to choose from. Here's a simple guide to the common kinds you'll encounter.
  • Free checking
    Despite what some banks advertise, "free" doesn't always mean there are no fees. Here are some fees to look out for.
  •'s checking account survey
    Check out this section to understand how to read and understand our checking account survey.
  • Float and Check 21
    New government rules in 2004 affect the length of time between when your check arrives at the bank and when the money comes out of your account.
  • Overdraft protection plans
    Being protected against an occasional bounced check sometimes has hidden costs. Here's what you need to know about these plans.
  • ChexSystems
    ChexSystems is similar to a credit bureau, but you don't know you're in it until it's too late. We outline ways to stay out of the database.



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