4 questions about ‘green’ checking accounts

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As the green movement — green cars, green jobs, green energy and even green drinks — gains momentum, more banks and credit unions are offering green checking accounts, too.

Like any checking account, the green versions vary widely. Many reward you with fee-free accounts and other perks for going paperless. Others donate a portion of their profits to environmental causes. Still, others dish out higher interest rates when you meet certain criteria.

But if you don’t meet those requirements, some accounts may ding you with new fees, higher fees or lower rates.

The result: Do-gooders may end up dishing out more of their money for the privilege of having a green checking account.

“When there are monthly fees on green checking accounts, you may be better off writing a check to charitable causes and taking the tax deduction,” says Greg McBride, CFA, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. Any checking account has a schedule of fees, and it should be required reading before signing up, he says.

Going beyond the green sheen and sizing up checking account benefits also can pay off, experts say. Knowing whether the bank is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is important, along with knowing an online account’s features and its downsides.

Here are four questions to ask before signing up.