With banks nationwide charging more and more for their services, people everywhere are having a rough time trying to find truly free checking accounts.
Some individuals opt for the “lesser evil,” as it were—trying to find an institution that has the lowest monthly fees, while others simply gripe about new policies and stick around for the sake of convenience.
The truth of the matter is truly free checking accounts still exists. You just need to know where to look for it.
The Uphill Battle Of Free Checking
Among the most aggravating fees that banking customers face are monthly service fees. Often, these are implemented without warning, resulting in a small, but irritating nonetheless, withdrawal from their account at regular intervals.
For those who have a low or unsteady income, this slight drain constitutes one extra expense to account for in their budget.
Unfortunately, most larger banks have felt it necessary to charge some kind of fee for their services. The majority of their customers use their checking services, and while some of those customers may purchase other financial products from them, many do not. So, banks make little to no return from free checking accounts, which is hardly sufficient to support massive franchises.
As a result, large banks tend to find ways to charge for services that should be free, including:
- Monthly service fees
- ATM fees, typically for using ATMs at competing institutions
- Minimum balance fees, in which the bank charges their customers for having balances below a set amount
- Overdraft fees, which may be assessed either when a customer overdraws on their account or as a flat regular fee for overdraft protection
Avoiding these fees frequently becomes a minefield, especially since many institutions aren’t completely transparent on their policies. That, combined with franchise-level customer service, results in frequent irritation among banking customers.
Where To Find Free Checking Accounts
With the issues that mainstream banking institutions face, it can be difficult to find truly free checking. Fortunately, there are still institutions that provide these services. If you’re searching for a free checking account, a credit union is a great place to start.
Credit unions tend to be smaller in scale, so they don’t require the same level of revenue banking franchises do. They also operate as nonprofits, meaning the need to turn a profit is far less than those of commercially-based institutions.
Given the lower financial stressors that credit unions deal with, many of them offer totally free checking accounts to their members with no monthly service fees. While they may still make certain requirements for their free accounts, most people won’t have to deal with monthly service fees or surprise costs.
Opening A Free Checking Account With A Credit Union
When opening a free checking account with a credit union, you’ll have to meet a few requirements.
For example, we require the items detailed below.
In order to qualify for free checking, you need to be a member. Becoming a member is simple, but you do need to qualify. This means you’d need to meet one of the following:
- Live, work, worship, attend school, or run a business/legal entity in specific counties in Texas.
- Be a student, faculty, or staff member of one of our lists of colleges or school districts present in the area, including Bastrop ISD, Leander ISD, Texas A&M University, Texas State University, and Hays CSID.
- Work for one of the employers on our list.
- Be immediately related to someone who is eligible.
Essentially, if you’re part of our community, you’re probably eligible to join. More specific requirements can be found here.
In addition to membership, you’ll also need to open a savings account. Doing so requires a minimum of $5 in your savings account balance, which is a low requirement. That amount (and any that you deposit in your savings afterward) will grow over time, making this expense truly negligible.
Finally, a minimum deposit of $25 is also required in order to verify that you have funds for the account. You’ll be able to withdraw or transfer that amount the next business day after, and there is no minimum balance. You could also use the amount to pay for your first box of checks, but if you don’t need those, you’re free to do with it as you will.
Other Perks Of Free Checking Accounts From Credit Unions
As mentioned, individual credit unions will all have their own requirements, meaning each one will work a little differently. That said, freedom from minimum balances and monthly service fees tends to be the norm, so there’s no real reason to pay someone to use your money.
Credit unions may also provide the option to add additional services to your free checking account, such as overdraft protection or special rewards. Again, these vary by institution, but they are by and large offered as add-ons to fundamentally free services. As such, it’s worth talking to your local credit union to see what they have to offer.
Check out these helpful resources for free checking accounts from a credit union: