What happened to my free checking?
Credit unions are "fundamentally different from banks because they are not-for-profit and member-owned," says Mike Schenk, vice president of economics and statistics for the Credit Union National Association, or CUNA.
Because credit unions are generally "in the business of maximizing returns to members rather than shareholders," they can often take operational discounts and offer services at a lower cost than many banks can, Schenk says. These days, those services include free checking.
According to CUNA's 2011-2012 Credit Union Fees Survey Report, 79 percent of the group's members that offer checking accounts offer them for free. To find a credit union that offers free checking in your area, check the local phone book, contact your state's credit union association or use the credit union finder on the CUNA website. While credit unions traditionally have served only those in a limited group, such as employees of a certain company, standards have changed and many credit unions are open to other residents of their local communities.