Free Checking Is Over… Kind Of…
I’ve had free checking since 2004 for both my personal and business accounts. That happened when I left the big bank, which for me was HSBC, and went to a smaller bank, which at the time was called Charter One.
Then we hit the banking crisis and the federal government got into the mix, and I held out high hopes that my small bank, which had been taken over and is now called Citizens Bank, which is also continually growing, might decide to keep my accounts as they are. Well, it was a nice dream.
My bank so far is leaving my personal account alone. However, they are adding a $10 fee to my business account. That’s depressing, and I don’t like it. However, I’m also lucky. They’ve set up a caveat that I should easily be able to handle. All I need to do is 5 transactions with the account a month and the fee is waived. I feel like I dodged a bullet, and I’m pretty happy about it.
Of course that’s not happening for everyone, especially large banks. Many of them are finding ways of hitting people up with all sorts of fees, like the $8.95 a month Bank of America is charging anyone who still wants paper over doing their banking online, or if you go into the bank to take care of transactions that they believe you could do online.
Some banks that never had free checking to begin with are raising their rates as well. Bankrate.com states that only 65% of banks still offer free checking, down from 75% last year. And banks that have been paying interest are either reducing the amount, or setting up new ways for you to earn that. Wells Fargo now requires customers to link their checking and savings accounts together to earn .05% on balances of $500 or more.
Experts recommend that consumers shop around for the best rates, starting at credit unions, some of which are accepting clients they never have before. Smaller, local banks that are stable are also great options. And keep your eye on your bank accounts for hidden fees that take money from you.