Free checking remains well within the reach of most Americans, and often means looking no further than their credit union. This, according to Bankrate.com's latest look at credit union checking accounts showing 72 percent of the nation's largest credit unions offer a stand-alone free checking account.
Further, an additional 24 percent of accounts surveyed contain fee waiver policies, eliminating the fee for members that have some combination of online statements and direct deposit. All told, 96 percent of the checking accounts surveyed at the nation's 50 largest credit unions are free, or can become free. These mirror the findings of last year's survey, indicating that the decline in free checking accounts, which was modest at credit unions to begin with, has plateaued.
The minimum opening deposits are also very attainable, with more than half of the accounts surveyed -- 54 percent -- having no minimum opening deposit requirement and no account requiring more than $100 to open.
Thirty percent of the credit unions surveyed either don't charge their members for using out-of-network ATMs or provide at least one free out-of-network withdrawal per week.
But overdrawing your checking account will still cost you, most often $25 at credit unions, compared with $35 at banks.
Nonmembers using the credit union's ATM can expect to pay an average fee of $2.41, up 5 percent from last year, and comparable to the average of $2.60 that banks charge.
For more information on credit union checking accounts, tips on how to avoid fees, and to find the best checking account for your needs, just visit Bankrate.com. I'm Greg McBride.