Guide to checking accounts

Checking accounts were once simple bank accounts where people with some extra cash could keep it and draw on it by writing checks or withdrawing. Today’s checking accounts are filled with features, perks, and of course sometimes fees. Picking out a perfect checking out for your needs can be done with some shopping around.

The most basic checking accounts these days come with checks, a place to keep your cash, and usually come with restrictions such as account minimums and not much more. The average checking accounts come with low or no minimums, an ATM card (which is sometimes also a debit card), online banking capabilities, and checks.

Checking accounts for the savvy bank customer of course come with much more such as automatic bill pay; which allows an account holder to schedule free and on time payments of many monthly bills through the bank. These premium accounts can also include no minimum account balances restrictions, overdraft protection, ATM fee refunds, 24 hour online banking, linking to external accounts, and the coveted feature of interest earning checking accounts.

If you’d like an account that pays interest on your money, allows full online banking, and things like free checks you need to be prepared to read the fine print on many accounts. Many ‘premium’ accounts that offer ATM fee refunds and interest earning accounts tend to charge fees or at the least require the account to have at least a certain amount in them at all times to be eligible. Generally for these interest earning accounts the minimum is about 2,000 dollars which may be hard to maintain.

But all hope is not lost for those looking for a premium checking account that earns you interest on your money, offers fee-free banking, and full feature online banking. Online banks (not to be confused with ‘online banking’ offered by some brick and mortar banks) are becoming more common and more popular with companies like ING Direct becoming household names in online banks.

Online banks are generally able to save millions in overhead costs because they tend to have few or no physical bank locations, handle most communications electronically, have less staff, and basically can pass on the savings to customers. Online banks offer high interest checking and savings accounts, with the checking accounts alone offering interest that is often 4 times the national average for traditional bank savings accounts. Some also offer fee-free banking, and debit card use. All tend to have good overdraft rates, automatic bill pay abilities, and easy to use websites. They also tend to be free checking accounts which, unlike their counterpart checking accounts with low monthly fees, won’t have any fees.

If you are looking for bad credit checking accounts or checking accounts with no credit checks; good for people with no credit or bad credit; many large banks with physical branch locations will be happy to allow you to open an account with them. They may require proof of steady income and may not offer debit cards with the accounts. The accounts may have a low fee or a low account minimum but some banks will allow a basic account to be open with neither of these restrictions attached.

While searching for a good checking account be sure to read the fine print on all agreements and paperwork. Try to find an account with no minimums, interest earning abilities, online banking, and either a wide network of ATMs or refundable ATM fees. Keeping these key features in mind will help you find the checking account that fits your needs and helps you manage your money.