As noted in Bankrate's 2010 Checking Study, free checking accounts are on the decline.
Fortunately, getting a free checking account is not impossible. You may need to simply sit down with a banker and ask, "How can I get this account for free?" says Denise Winston, founder of Money Start Here, a financial education company in Bakersfield, Calif.
Signing up for features such as direct deposit or an automatic savings plan can often get you that free checking account.
Once you have an account, be wary of overdraft fees. "Not only do they tend to be the larger single fee, but they're the ones that can be tapped multiple times without (you) even realizing it," says Daniel Penrod, senior industry analyst for the California Credit Union League in Ontario, Calif.
To avoid late charges, sign up for e-mail or text alerts that notify you when your balance is low, or sign up for overdraft protection.
Learn more about the fees to watch for at Bankrate's report on checking trends.