In the modern age of banking, an effective checking account can make or break your personal finances. The best checking accounts will come with no fees and a multitude of benefits but be warned that finding both can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are a number of accredited best checking accounts 2024 for a person to consider.
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What is a checking account and how does it work?
Before looking at the banks with the best checking accounts, it’s important to ensure that you understand what a checking account actually is. This type of account allows a person to deposit and withdraw money as wished from the account, allowing for easy access without fees. The account is specifically designed for people who need money for expenses or other needs in the immediate future.
Checking account fees to be aware of
Regardless of the type of checking account you are considering, there may be various fees you are faced with. The most commonly seen fees include:
- Account opening fees
- Overdraft fees
- Out-of-network ATM fees
- Stop payment fees
- Inactivity fees
- Check fees
- Nonsufficient fund fees
How to avoid fees and why it matters
Over time, fees can quickly add up and make the cost of holding an account seemingly not worth it. Avoiding fees can almost always be done, however, by holding a certain amount of funds in an account or ensuring there are adequate funds in an account so that an overdraft does not occur. By doing so, a person can avoid letting fees pile up which cost them hundreds of dollars.
Pros and cons of checking accounts
|Paying bills is extremely easy due to how quickly funds can be taken from the account
|Certain checking accounts will add additional fees for extra services
|Many employers or service providers will pay people through their checking account
|The APY rates on checking accounts are notoriously low compared to other types of financial accounts a person can hold
|Money in a checking account is typically FDIC insured
|Money can be sent or received through third-party services such as PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle
Checking vs savings accounts
Many people may find themselves confused between the terms checking and savings account when considering the best checking account interest rates offered by banks. The primary difference between the two is that money in a savings account is meant to sit there and only be withdrawn for long-term goals. In fact, most banks have a limit on savings account withdrawals on a monthly basis to enforce this. The savings account interest rate is also typically higher than that of a checking account due to this reason. Some checking accounts may come with a debit card, but it is exceedingly rare.
What to look for in a checking account
Deciding between different checking accounts offered by banks can be a challenge, but there are a few general factors to keep at the top of mind:
1. Types of checking accounts
First and foremost, consider the different types of checking accounts offered by an institution. In most cases, this will be interest-bearing vs. non-interest bearing, meaning there is either an APY rate on the balances in the account or not. Typically, an account with an APY may have more fees, such as overdraft fees, but the benefit is that you can earn more on the funds sitting in your account.
2. Bonuses offered
After looking at the different types of checking accounts, check to see if there are any welcome bonuses offered by the account. Even getting a couple of hundred dollars for opening up an account with direct deposit set up can make one account better than another in a person’s eyes.
Some checking accounts will offer the account holder rewards if they keep a certain amount in the account consistently or if they make deposits on a regular basis. Read the terms and conditions of each account to determine whether or not there is anything offered on the account you are considering.
Different checking accounts will have different fees depending on the account issuer. Whether it’s an overdraft fee, account opening fee, or something else, evaluate the cost of holding the account before signing up.
How to choose the best checking account for you
When looking at different checking accounts on the market, there are a variety of options to consider when thinking about which is best for you. With that said, the most prominent factors to consider should include:
1. Your needs and preferences
- Consider how often you’ll use the account for transactions.
- Determine if you need physical branches, online banking, or both.
- Decide if you want additional features like mobile banking, ATM access, or overdraft protection.
2. Understanding the welcome offer
- Some banks offer welcome bonuses or incentives for opening a new checking account. These could include cash bonuses, gift cards, or other perks.
- Understand the terms and conditions of the offer, including any requirements you need to meet to qualify for the bonus.
- Evaluate whether the welcome offer aligns with your financial needs and goals.
3. Review fees and charges:
- Research account maintenance fees, minimum balance requirements, and any additional fees (overdraft fees, ATM fees, etc.).
- Look for accounts that offer fee waivers if you maintain a certain balance or have direct deposits.
- Be aware of potential fees and how they might impact your overall banking experience.
4. Consider the cons:
- Acknowledge any potential drawbacks of the checking account. These could include limitations on the ATM network, customer service concerns, or lack of certain features.
- Research customer reviews and complaints online to get an idea of common issues with the bank or account you’re considering.
5. Interest rates:
- Check if the account offers interest on your balance. While checking accounts typically offer lower interest rates compared to savings accounts, it’s still worth considering, especially for larger balances.
6. Accessibility and convenience:
- Determine the availability of ATMs and branches in your area. If you prefer online banking, make sure the bank’s online platform is user-friendly.
7. Mobile and online banking:
- Review the mobile app’s features, ease of use, and ratings.
- Ensure that you can easily check balances, make transfers, and pay bills online.
Related: Best Mobile Banking Apps
Requirements to open a checking account
Generally, there are not too many requirements to open a checking account. A person must almost always be at least 18 years of age, even for the best banks checking account options. There may be additional requirements that vary from institution to institution, such as depositing a certain amount into the account at the time of opening, so refer to the specific rules of your bank.
How to open a checking account online
Opening a checking account online is extremely simple and will require only a few documents: an SSN, government-issued ID, physical address, and full name. Once these items have been gathered, a person can visit the site of their chosen financial institution and fill out the application for the account they are interested in. If approved and the account is opened, it will usually occur within minutes. If there is a minimum deposit required, right after opening the account is when you will need to deposit the requested funds.
There is no technical limit on the number of checking accounts that a person can have, but it is generally advised to not have more than one account for ease of financial tracking.
Some checking accounts will charge no fees to the account holder whatsoever and, in this case, would be considered “free”. However, some checking account issuers will charge monthly service fees or other fees which cost the account holder some money to keep the account open.
Checking account bonuses are determined by the account issuer and, as such, ebb and flow in value. Refer to the website of the financial institution you are considering opening an account with to see if there are any current offerings.
Generally, opening a checking account will not trigger a hard pull on your credit, which means opening the account will have no impact on your credit.
In most cases, a person needs to be at least 18 years old to open a checking account in their own name. There are specialty accounts, however, that are designed for teenagers for the purpose of building financial responsibility. While these are designed for teens, they typically require an adult to be named as the account holder with the teenager.
Yes, the majority of checking accounts are FDIC insured, meaning deposits are covered in the event of a total loss, typically up to around $250,000.
Certain checking accounts may earn a person rewards for holding the account through the debit card they hold, but most checking accounts do not offer rewards.
Yes, a person can overdraft a checking account if they do not have sufficient funds in the account when they make a payment using their debit card or by writing a check. Some checking accounts will charge an overdraft fee if this occurs, whereas others may stop the transaction from going through in the first place.
Generally, a person can indeed open more than one checking account with the same bank, but it is not an advised course of action.
Prepaid debit cards are different from checking accounts in that money needs to be loaded onto the card first in order to use it, with the funds being stored on the card. On the other hand, funds sit in a checking account, rather than on a card, with the debit card simply being used to access the funds in an account.
Being denied for a checking account can be a discouraging experience, but the usual reason behind the denial is due to not qualifying for the account in accordance with the rules outlined by the bank or institution.