Free checking? It's not one of those mythical creatures, like the yeti or a high school kid who's not on Instagram. Free checking may have gotten a little harder to come by, but you can find it -- if you know where to look.
A recent Bankrate survey found that 37% of banks currently offer a free, non-interest-bearing checking account with no strings attached. While that's down just a touch from 38% last year, it's less than half the level seen in 2009, when 76% of banks offered no-cost checking. This counts only those accounts that have no monthly or per-transaction fees and no minimum balance requirement.
Your best bets for free checking
Free checking accounts can be found by shopping around. Focus your search in places where free checking is more prevalent, including:
- Smaller community banks.
- Credit unions.
- Online banks.
Don't want to leave your current bank? An additional 58% of banks offer accounts that can become free if you meet certain requirements, most commonly direct deposit. Note, however, that these banks are becoming more and more persnickety and are now demanding that you deposit $500 a month or even $1,000 a month if you want to avoid check fees. That may not be realistic if you work part time or are retired.
Altogether, 95% of banks offer a non-interest account that is free or can become free.
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