Do Seniors Pay More for Checking?

Senior checking accounts are, at best, the same as basic accounts – and sometimes worse.

Seniors enjoy discounts in many venues – movie theaters, parks, restaurants, and various retailers. But there’s one place seniors might pay extra: banks.

Earlier this month the Pew Center released “Senior Checking Accounts: Are They Worth It?” as part of a larger project on checking. It found among the 12 largest U.S. banks and 12 largest credit unions, five offered a specific senior account. Comparing them to basic account options, the study found one of three things to be true in each case…

  • Same deal: There wasn’t much difference between basic and senior accounts. “At one institution, the only difference is an unspecified discount on check reorders,” the study says.
  • Perks at a low balance: These senior accounts have higher monthly fees, but those can be waived with a minimum balance ($250 in one case) and include benefits like waivers on check images and discounted check reorders. “Seniors could save $48 to $96 per year with this category,” depending on their account balances.
  • High balance or high fees: This kind of senior account earns interest and gets extra perks, but those with low balances should steer clear. “Expect to pay between $156 and $300 more per year in monthly fees if they fail to maintain a $5,000 balance,” the study says. Worse, while a basic account with direct deposit gets a waiver on the monthly fee, senior accounts don’t – and the fee is almost doubled.

Pew released a similar analysis for student checking accounts and found savings were smaller but more common: 14 of the top 24 financial institutions offer them, and only one of those costs students extra. But the obvious conclusion to draw from these studies is it literally pays to shop around and compare all options before signing up.

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