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.