What Sort Of Features Should Consumers Look For When Getting A Checking Account?

What sort of features should consumers look for when getting a checking account? Overdraft protection, free checks, a low minimum balance requirement - these are features you may want to look for in a new bank account.

When opening a checking account with a new bank it is important to ask a lot of questions so you can get the best possible account to meet your financial needs.

The person who helps you open your account should go over the details of the account with you, but this doesn't always happen. It may be up to you to ask the right questions before committing to a bank.

An example of this is 'free' checking accounts. Free checking accounts are not always free.

"Check for any hidden fees or other ways you could end up paying. Always read the fine print," says Steven Twirago, personal banker with Chase Bank.

There may be no service charge on your account but there may be hidden fees that spring up later. You may be charged for some of the services your bank offers such as visits to the teller, ATM usage or debit card usage.

You can earn an interest rate on your money if you keep a certain minimum balance in your account each month. If you have a low requirement you will earn a low interest rate. The higher your balance requirement is the higher the interest rate you can earn.

"Chase bank rewards customers with a no-minimum balance requirement if they have a certain relationship with the bank or if they have direct deposit. As a result, it's usually labeled as free checking," says Twirago.

You want an account that will not charge you each time you use their ATM. You will also want to know if you will be charged by your bank for using an ATM owned by another bank.

"Make sure the bank doesn't charge you for using their debit card, some banks do," says Twirago. "Another feature you definitely want to have is free online banking privileges."

Find out if your bank will charge you for using this service. Online banking is a great tool for keeping abreast of your account information and activity but it should not cost you anything extra.

Some accounts will allow you to write a certain amount of checks each month. After you have written your quota they may charge you a fee for each additional check you write.

"On business accounts, you may be charged for excessive transactions. However, there are accounts to help customers that will be doing excessive transactions," explains Twirago.

Find out how much your bank will charge you for checks. Quite often this amount is a lot higher than ordering them yourself through an independent check printing company. You may be entitled to a number of free checks with your account.

Banks charge you money if you write a check and your account does not have enough money to cover it. The fee for this varies at each bank with the average being $25.00 to $35.00 for each occurrence. If your account is in good standing you may qualify for overdraft protection. Your bank will determine the requirements for this.

This protection will kick in if you write a check with insufficient funds. The protection will draw money from a different account to pay the difference to help you avoid a fee. Find out if this service is free or if you will have to pay a fee for it each month.

In closing, Twirago adds, "Take some time to talk with your banker when you are opening a new account at a new bank. Your banker will help you figure out which features will work best for you and your needs."

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