10 Things to Consider When Choosing a Bank


Free Checking Is Never Free

While "free" checking may not actually be free, it may offer other advantages that make it worthwhile.
While "free" checking may not actually be free, it may offer other advantages that make it worthwhile.

We've talked about various methods banks have created to sell you on their rates, because they know that research and being honest about finances are two things most of us hate to do. But just a little comparison shopping, and a focus on your personal needs and behavior, can go a long way in making sure that you've found a bank that's the perfect fit. Like any other service or purchase, it comes down to your priorities.

Some banks offer free checking when you use direct deposit or limit your branch visits, but typically, the account is "free" only when you agree to a particular minimum balance, which could range from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on the bank.

Of course, you really shouldn't keep too much money in checking anyway -- it's just sitting there not earning interest -- so, again, you can balance the fees against the rates you could be earning on that money. Your checking account won't be "free," necessarily, but it could be worth the extra fees.

Banks spend a lot on advertising and finding new ways to say the same old things, and for many of us, that's the source of our information. But with just a little digging, you can see beyond the claims they make and find the perfect solution for your banking needs.

Related Articles


  • Bankrate.com. "Bankrate's 2010 Checking Study." Oct. 25, 2010. (Dec. 8, 2010)http://www.bankrate.com/finance/checking/bankrate-s-2010-checking-study.aspx
  • Better Business Bureau of New York State. "Choosing a Bank." Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. 2010. (Dec. 8, 2010)http://www.newyork.bbb.org/SitePage.aspx?site=24&id=588c60d1-776c-4ce4-9809-63d17c2650e1
  • Hamm, Trent. "What Features Are Most Important For Your Primary Bank? My Thoughts and Recommendations." The Simple Dollar. Aug. 19, 2008. (Dec. 8, 2010)http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/08/19/what-features-are-most-important-for-your-primary-bank-my-thoughts-and-recommendations/
  • Harzog, Beverly Blair. "Why Lack of Financial Literacy is Crippling Consumers, and What You Can Do About It - Part 1." CardRatings.com. April 9, 2010. (Dec. 9, 2010)http://www.cardratings.com/financial-literacy-series-credit-cards.html
  • Liu, Henry C.K. "Credit Bust Bypasses Banks." Asia Times Online. Sep. 7, 2007. (Dec. 8, 2010)http://atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/II07Dj01.html
  • The Motley Fool. "Introduction to Banking." 2010. (Dec. 8, 2010)http://www.fool.com/money/banking/banking.htm
  • Roth, J.D. "Ask the Readers: Choosing a Bank During the Credit Crisis?" Get Rich Slowly. Oct. 3, 2008. (Dec. 7, 2010)http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2008/10/03/ask-the-readers-choosing-a-bank-during-the-credit-crisis
  • Weston, Liz Pulliam. "Ditch your bank for a credit union." MSN Money. April 9, 2009. (Dec. 9, 2010)http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Banking/BetterBanking/DitchYourBankForACreditUnion.aspx
  • Yip, Pamela. "Find the bank or credit union that fits you best." The Dallas Morning News. Feb. 21, 2010. (Dec. 8, 2010)http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/personalfinance/stories/022210dnbusperfi.3cebf30.html


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