Skip to main content

Is a Free Checking Account Right for You?

Is a Free Checking Account Right for You?

When you decide to open a personal checking account, you have a variety of options, including free checking accounts. And while “free checking” may seem to be the obvious choice — Who doesn’t like getting free products and services? — it’s important to understand that “free” can mean different things from one bank or credit union to another. It’s also important to note that a checking account that isn’t labeled “free” might have ways to be so and offer you more value, depending on your circumstances.

What “Free Checking” actually means

While there is no standard definition of “free checking,” it is generally assumed that it is a basic checking account that does not charge the account holder a recurring monthly maintenance fee (as many other types of checking accounts do) and does not require a minimum daily balance. There may be fees for certain types of activities — ATM usage, overdrafts, returned checks, stop payments, wire transfers, etc. — so be sure to examine the terms of any account you are considering opening and to speak with a representative at your bank so that you fully understand what is free and what is not.

Another area to compare when evaluating free checking accounts is the features each account offers, such as digital banking and the option to open and link a statement savings account. With these features, you can transfer funds between accounts and earn interest on the money you keep in savings.

Here are some beneficial features to look for in a free checking account:

Online and mobile banking capabilities

Banks that offer online banking tools and/or a mobile app provide account holders with a way to access their checking accounts 24/7 through a digital device. Depending on your bank, you may be able to use these tools to:
  • View your account activity and balances
  • Pay your bills through online bill pay
  • Transfer money to or from other bank accounts
  • Set up text or email account alerts to notify you of certain activity — e.g., your account balance falls below the threshold you specify, or a certain type of transaction is underway
  • Access a person-to-person payment service such as Zelle®, which enables you to send and receive money from your smartphone

Free transactions at in-network ATMs

Free checking accounts typically include a debit card or an ATM card for you to use to deposit, withdraw and transfer funds at ATMs. Using ATMS within your bank’s network is sometimes free, but you may incur fees and surcharges (additional charges to cover costs the bank incurs to complete transactions) for using ATMs outside of the bank’s network. Check to see how many and which ATMs will be free for you to use and what charges may be applied to any out-of-network transactions (or, if surcharge-free access is available through any ATM networks).

Fraud alerts

Keeping your account and identity safe is paramount. Many financial institutions help by sending you text alerts when they notice any suspicious activity related to your account. These alerts provide details of the potentially fraudulent activity and enable you to reply as to whether you recognize the activity as legitimate.

Card control services

An additional safety feature some checking accounts offer is a card control app that enables you to determine how, when and where your debit and credit cards are available for use. Using this feature, you can turn access to your debit card on or off; restrict card transactions by location, merchant type, transaction type or spend limit; set up alerts to notify you of card activity; and view recent card transactions.

Dollar Bank’s Free Checking Account offers the above features, as well as others.

How other types of checking accounts may offer even more value

Although some free checking accounts do provide a lot of features and value, it’s also worth comparing accounts labeled “free” with other types of checking accounts — those that do have a monthly maintenance fee. You may be able to have your monthly fee waived simply by keeping a certain balance in your account or by making a certain number of transactions through your account each month. These accounts may also offer perks with the potential to make them even better than free: paying interest on checking balances, offering account holders a higher rate of interest on savings products, discounting rates or fees on lending products, etc.

Dollar Bank’s Everything Checking, a checking account with plenty of perks, is a good example of a checking account that waives its $5 monthly maintenance fee when the account holder meets certain qualifications. Account holders have access to all of the features included with a Dollar Bank Free Checking account, plus earn interest on their checking balance; get free ATM access at more than 55,000 locations; and qualify for premium savings rates, mortgage and loan discounts, and more.

Compare to find the account that fits your needs

Everyone’s financial needs are different, and only you can decide which checking account is right for you. Be sure to explore any fees associated with each account, read their terms and disclosures, and ask any questions you may have before choosing the account that’s right for you. A side-by-side comparison should tell you all you need to know to make a smart choice.

If you’d like to find out more about Dollar Bank’s checking accounts, visit us online or at one of our offices, or call 1-800-242-2265.

This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. Any reliance on the information herein is solely and exclusively at your own risk and you are urged to do your own independent research. To the extent information herein references an outside resource or Internet site, Dollar Bank is not responsible for information, products or services obtained from outside sources and Dollar Bank will not be liable for any damages that may result from your access to outside resources. As always, please consult your own counsel, accountant, or other advisor regarding your specific situation.

Posted: June 14, 2022