Using a checking account makes it easier to manage your money. And reviewing your bank statements regularly can help you budget funds and make better financial decisions.
Unlike a savings account — which you use mainly to set money aside for a goal or rainy day while earning interest — a checking account allows you easy access to your funds in a variety of ways. Instead of using cash for purchases and bills, you can write a check, use a debit card or access automatic bill pay.
Explore different banks’ options and ask questions about their checking account offers to ensure you get the best deal when you’re ready to open a checking account.
5 Questions to Ask Before You Open a Checking Account
To help you decide where to open a checking account, you should find out some specific information. Ask the following questions to get all the details about a bank’s checking program:
1. Do You Charge a Monthly Maintenance Fee or Any Other Fees?
Some checking accounts charge fees for ATM use, automatic bill pay or even if the balance falls below a certain minimum. Some charge a monthly maintenance fee just for having an account — and practically all impose overdraft fees.
Fee requirements can vary widely among banks — or even at the same bank — depending on the account you choose. For example, the Bank of America minimum balance for a standard checking account is $1,500 and for an interest-earning account, it’s $10,000 in your combined accounts if you have more than one.
2. What Checking Account Promotions Do You Offer to New Customers?
Many banks extend checking account offers to draw in new customers. If the bank you’re considering has any promotional offers, ask about the offer details and its requirements to ensure you qualify.
For example, if the bank is offering a bonus interest rate on a checking account, find out if that rate expires in a few months. If it does, ask what the rate reverts to after the offer ends.
Some banks let you order checks for free if you meet certain requirements or choose a specific type of account, and some waive account fees if you sign up for direct deposit. Make sure you ask about everything the bank has on offer.
For short-term checking account promotions, consider whether the immediate benefit outweighs the long-term fees and requirements. Sometimes an attractive, upfront offer might cost you more over time.
3. Do You Offer Special Checking Account Promotions If I Use Other Services or Have Other Accounts at Your Bank?
Some financial institutions provide special checking account offers for their loyal customers. If you already have a mortgage, savings account or investments at a bank, ask if it will waive the monthly maintenance fee or give you other benefits if you open a checking account.
4. Do You Offer Online Banking and Mobile Banking?
Some banks offer both in-person and online banking and others are online-only operations. Ask a brick-and-mortar bank if it offers online banking services — if it does, ask how much you’ll pay to use them.
Mobile banking is another attractive feature because it enables you to conduct transactions from your phone. Ask if the bank has a mobile banking app you can use, what services it offers and how much you’ll pay to make transactions.
If you’re willing to open a checking account online at an internet-only bank, ask if its accounts are insured by the FDIC. If they’re not, you won’t have any protection if the bank fails.
5. Do You Offer Overdraft Protection — If So, How Much Does It Cost?
Overdraft protection means the bank will draw money from your linked account to clear checks, debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals when you don’t have enough money in your checking account. It’s convenient, but it comes at a price.
Overdraft protection will generally cost you from $30 to $35 per transaction, which adds up quickly if you have multiple overdrafts during a statement cycle. Find out how much the protection will cost you and ask how the bank processes transactions that are affected by non-sufficient funds. If the bank begins with the largest transaction first — rather than proceeding in chronological order — you’ll incur more fees, so it might not be worth your while.