Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Contemplating a 'Free' Checking Account? Four Red Flags to Watch For


Free checking accounts seem to be offered by every bank, but few of them are really free. While many of them come with hidden fees, other supposedly “free” checking accounts come with a lot of restrictions. If you're considering a free checking account, make sure that you answer these questions first.

1. What are the restrictions on the account?


In order to provide you with free checking, a bank has to make its money from somewhere. In most cases, this money comes from the fees they get from direct deposit or the fees they get every time you swipe your debit card. For this reason, most free checking accounts require you to have direct deposit and/or make a certain number of charges on your debit card each month. Make sure you can meet these requirements before opening the account.

2. Are you sure you can keep the minimum balance?


Banks are legally allowed to advertise free checking even if those accounts come with fees if you break one of the rules. The most common rule that customers break is a minimum balance requirement. These requirements set an amount of money that must be kept in the account at all times. If your spending ever forces the balance in the account to drop below this line, you get charged a fee. I some cases, the minimum balance on a free checking account is $15,000 or higher.

3. Do you have to order your own checks?


If you can meet the other requirements but the checks you need have to be purchased separately, one of these accounts might still be an all right deal if you don't use a lot of checks each month. Ordering a basic supply of Disney checks from http://www.checks-superstore.com/ is just a one-time fee, and the cost of ordering checks is often a lot less than paying fees on the account. Of course, if you go through a lot of checks each month, you might want to keep looking for other accounts.

4. Is there a time limit on “free”?


Even if you meet every other requirement, the fine print on many free checking accounts states that you will have to start paying fees once a time limit is up. If this is the case for the account you're considering, then it might make sense to either switch checking accounts frequently or look for a low-cost account that you can use for years.


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