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
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.

2 Costly Rewards Credit Card Mistakes — and How to Fix Them
2 Costly Rewards Credit Card Mistakes — and How to Fix Them

If you commit either of these credit card sins, you are likely losing money every time you use a card. Here’s how to easily right this wrong.

9 Houseplants That Remove Toxins From Your Indoor Air
9 Houseplants That Remove Toxins From Your Indoor Air

These plants may also do everything from reduce the amount of dust in your home to improve your productivity.

10 Mistakes That Cost You Money at Warehouse Stores
10 Mistakes That Cost You Money at Warehouse Stores

Wholesale clubs might have great deals, but these mistakes will cost you.

What is the Cheapest Grocery Store?
What is the Cheapest Grocery Store?

Aldi, Kroger and Walmart: Which grocery store is the cheapest?

View this page without ads

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

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon

Are you losing money due to any of these missteps?

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

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.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card
Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card

Credit cards offer many conveniences and protections, but sometimes it’s simply smarter to keep the plastic tucked away.

13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

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.

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

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

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.

5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’
5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’

Here is why some seniors’ brains work as well as those of people who are decades younger.

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.