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Finding the Best Free Checking Accounts

A checking account is one type of bank account that is pretty much required for everyone. With internet checking and reward checking, how should one go about choosing a checking account these days? Jim at Bargaineering suggests a process to review your options at both credit unions and at the giant banks. I'm not sure if there's a reason to consider the major banks (unless you just want a sign-up bonus). Your local community banks and credit unions along with internet banks should provide you with the best checking account options. I do think it makes sense to consider having at least two checking accounts: one local and one internet. Here's a process to help you find the best local and internet checking accounts.

Local Checking is Required?

I don't see any reason not to have a checking account at a local bank or credit union. You can always open an additional internet checking or savings account for higher interest rates, free checks, more ATM choices or for other reasons. Having a checking account at a local bank can make it easier to make deposits and take care over banking needs. Yes, some banks allow remote deposits and ATM deposits. So one could definitely live without a local checking account, but unless you don't have any free local choices or if you are really intent to keep your life simple with one checking account, why limit yourself?

Finding the Best Local Checking Account

One thing important to note is that most reward checking accounts are also free checking accounts even if you don't meet the monthly requirements. So if you have a choice between a local free checking account and a local reward checking account, there's little reason not to choose the reward checking.

If there are no reward checking accounts being offered by banks or credit unions in your area, then the next best option in my opinion would be a free checking account at a local credit union or community bank. Refer to this post on finding local credit unions. As I mentioned in that post, many credit unions belong to networks that can give you free nationwide ATM and branch access. However, one reader did have a good point that shared branches often have more limitations on withdrawals and other transactions as compared to your own credit union or bank branch.

Internet Checking

If you have a free and convenient local checking account, there's no reason why you can't look for an internet checking account if you want higher interest, free checks and/or free ATM use. If you don't have a local reward checking account, there are still many high-yield reward checking accounts available nationwide. In addition to high interest, many offer refunds of ATM fees. Like the high interest, ATM fee refunds typically require meeting the monthly requirements.

If you don't want to worry about using your debit card each month to meet the reward checking requirements, an internet checking account is an alternative.

The best checking rate currently being offered by a nationwide non-reward internet checking account is at Incredible Bank which is still offering 2.02% APY as of 2/09/2010 (see review).

One thing to note about Incredible Bank's checking is that it doesn't offer paper checks. If you have a free local checking account, this may not be a big deal. ING Direct and HSBC Direct also offer paper-less checking accounts but the rates are much lower.

If you want paper checks and high interest, Alliant Credit Union's checking is a good option (see review).

Ally Bank's new checking account doesn't match Alliant's in terms of rates, but it does offer free paper checks and free ATM use (see review).

You can compare interest rates of reward checking accounts, internet checking accounts and local checking accounts at the checking account section of DepositAccounts.com

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ichaelm (anonymous)   |     |   Comment #1
I have free checking accounts with 25 banks and CU's. Some of them give you your first order of checks for free, most of them offer free online billpay, and nearly all of them even paid me a bonus for opening the account. If your financial institution starts charging you for your checking account, here are 25 of them that don't:









Broadway Federal








US Bank

Sandy Spring


Alliant CU



Wilmington Trust

Imperial Capital

gbjs (anonymous)   |     |   Comment #2
25 accounts?  do not try and sing up with perk street for the bonus they denied me and i only deal with 10 banks