checking

6 must-have features for checking accounts

Free online banking and bill pay are available
Free online banking and bill pay are available © Lucky Business/Shutterstock.com

As banks hit the digital highway, online banking and bill pay are must-haves.

Using these digital perks, you can bank from anywhere and check up on recent transactions. Even better, many banks and credit unions offer this service for free. For example, the 115-branch FirstBank offers free bill pay that lets you pay bills online and even receive e-bills.

"Free online bill pay helps consumers save money on stamps," says Tom Feltner, director of financial services at the Consumer Federation of America. "And online banking helps save time by making basic transactions."

Israel says some banks also offer valuable tools for managing money so you don't get overdrawn. For example, PNC has a cash-flow forecast called Danger Days that warns you when you're about to overdraw your account. And Wells Fargo has its My Money Map, which tracks your spending and sets up budget goals.

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