6 Ways You Can Still Get Free Checking

Photo (cc) by Alan O'Rourke

What do free checking accounts and the polar ice cap have in common? Both are endangered.

Free checking accounts are increasingly difficult to find and to keep. Banks figure on earning $85 to $115 in fees annually from each account, writes The New Yorker in a recent article about the banking difficulties of low- and moderate-income people. Banks are imposing lots of new fees and charges to replace revenue they lost when Congress set limits on overdraft fees and debit card swipe fees, the fee stores pay for each debit card transaction.

Hard as it is to see a cherished freebie bite the dust, it’s worth understanding that checking accounts often cost banks more than they earn. “The more accounts a bank has, the more they lose,” says USA Today.

Here are six ways to have a free checking account:

1. Maintain a minimum balance

Many banks require you to keep an average daily minimum amount in the account in order to qualify for free checking.

NerdWallet’s review of checking account fees and conditions to waive them at five big banks – Wells Fargo, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Citibank and Chase — says:

Thresholds for free checking vary, but average about $5,800. So if you happen to have $3,000 stashed in one bank, and $3,000 in another — and are paying for your checking in each — consider closing one account and merging the money into the other. Shazaam! You’re over the $5,800 limit, and entitled to free checking.

2. Sign up for an automatic payroll deposit

Banks also may offer free checking for accounts into which you have a regular payroll check automatically deposited. Each bank has its rules for the types of deposits and minimum amount to qualify.

3. Divorce your bank

If your bank’s rules aren’t working for you, turn on your heel and leave. First, though, find another bank. If this takes some searching, stick with it. Keep trying until you find the terms you need. Ally Bank, for instance, still offers no-minimum free checking. Read customer reviews for pros and cons.

This video offers help on how to switch banks.

4. Try a credit union

One solid alternative is a credit union. They don’t have shareholders demanding increasingly large profits. Rather, they’re owned by members. Their mission includes keeping costs low, which should mean lower costs for customers.

“Even if few banks offer no-strings-attached free checking anymore, the majority of credit unions do,” says DailyFinance.

Here’s the lowdown on credit unions. Locate a credit union near you.

5. Try a small bank

Free checking can still be found at most small banks, says USA Today. These are called “community banks,” a category that includes financial institutions with assets of $10 billion or under, says the Independent Community Bankers of America. Most community banks are much smaller than that, the trade group says. These banks usually are locally owned. Locate one near you.

6. Bank online

Search for online alternatives. Two examples:

  • NerdWallet likes PNC’s Virtual Wallet. Once unconditionally free, new rules require a $500 average daily balance or a $500 monthly direct deposit.
  • The popular ING Direct is no more. But Capital One 360 succeeded it in a merger and offers free, interest-paying online checking.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
How to Avoid Being Surprised by 7 Nasty Expenses
How to Avoid Being Surprised by 7 Nasty Expenses

Major expenses are difficult to predict, but there are ways to make sure you’re protected.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

10 Ways Anyone Can Earn More Income
10 Ways Anyone Can Earn More Income

Looking for additional cash? Here are a bunch of options that are accessible to anyone with internet access.

3 Easy Ways to Get Laundry Soap for Nearly Nothing
3 Easy Ways to Get Laundry Soap for Nearly Nothing

Not using any of these methods for saving on laundry detergent? Then, you are washing money down the drain.

7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze
7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze

These small appliances and cooking aids make healthy eating easy — and they’re all available on Amazon.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

Why Cloth Masks May Increase Your Coronavirus Risk
Why Cloth Masks May Increase Your Coronavirus Risk

A new study finds that wearing a cloth mask can backfire if you don’t clean it properly.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car
This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car

Looking for a good deal on a set of wheels? This should be your first stop.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.