Look for no minimum balance requirements
Near the top of the must-haves list is a checking account with no minimum balances, McBride says.
"Tying up money in checking accounts is inefficient," he says. "You could be earning higher interest elsewhere."
For now, credit unions are still a good place to look, since 74 percent of them don't have minimum balance requirements, according to a 2014 Bankrate survey. However, some banks still sock you with high minimums. For example, one megabank's checking account will ding you with a $12 monthly fee if you go below the $1,500 minimum balance requirement.
Interest-bearing accounts also carry high minimum balances. The average is a hefty $5,802, according to a 2013 Bankrate survey on checking accounts. Yet, the yield is a measly 0.05 percent.
For these reasons, treat your checking account like a gas tank, McBride says. Keep the account's dollar amount within a constant range. Then add to your emergency reserve with any overage.