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Opt for prepaid debit cards

If you can't get free checking, consider simply nixing your checking account and using a reloadable debit card, a "checkless, electronic bank account that follows the cardholder wherever he or she goes," says Crystal Wright, spokeswoman for the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association in Montvale, N.J.

"Branded with the Discover, MasterCard, Visa or American Express logo, (the cards) are accepted anywhere the brands are accepted," Wright says. "They are used by cardholders to pay bills, make purchases and get ATM access. Cardholders can only spend what they load onto the cards, making them great budgeting tools."

In addition, prepaid debit cards are cheaper to use than checking accounts, according to a study of comparative fees conducted by Bretton Woods Inc., a banking consulting firm in St. Simons Island, Ga., in October 2009.

If you're worried about security, most network-branded prepaid cards come with protective agreements that do not hold the cardholder liable for lost or stolen cards, Wright says. They're also easy to get. Most can be purchased and reloaded with funds online or at more than 200,000 retail stores nationwide.


 

 

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