To save on service fees on checking accounts and ATMs, understand the fees and features.
Your personal checking account is where you make deposits and manage your everyday financial needs. Between withdrawing cash, paying bills and transferring money, your checking account is probably one of the most heavily used bank accounts you have. If you’re thinking of switching banks or assessing your account needs, find out more and compare.
Forget the hidden fees and fine print — this checking account has neither.
Our top pick: NBKC Personal Account
Forget the hidden fees and fine print — this checking account has neither.
Compare checking accounts
How do checking accounts work?
Although features of checking accounts differ between banks, they all serve the same basic purpose: to provide a variety of ways to access your money: checks, ATMs and debit card purchases.
From your checking account you can:
- Make deposits.
- Pay bills.
- Transfer money between accounts.
- Withdraw cash from ATMs.
- Make purchases at stores and online.
- Set up automatic payments.
Checking accounts come with fees and charges from using banks and ATMs. You’ll also pay fees for added features on your account.
Commonly asked questions about checking accounts
Q: I’m about to share an account with my wife, are there any considerations?
Investing in a joint account as a couple is a good way to save on banking fees and manage the household expenses together. If there are any concerns about trust, you could look into a joint account that requires both signatures on major transactions.
Q: How do I cancel a bank check?
The process may vary slightly by financial institution, but to stop payment you need to report it lost or stolen to your bank. You may pay a fee.
There are different types of checking accounts available on the market. Each type comes with its own benefits, fees and features. Here are some common bank account types to help you choose.
|No frills, fee-free account||These accounts typically charge no fees for ATM transactions at the associated bank and no monthly fee. There may be some conditions such as direct deposit.|
|Rewards account||Earn cash back or airline miles for each transaction.|
|Student bank account||Offered to full-time students, these accounts won’t require a minimum balance or charge monthly or ATM fees.|
|Online bank account||You’ll usually receive unlimited domestic electronic transactions and be restricted to online access only.|
|Interest-earning checking account||Some financial institutions may offer checking accounts that earn interest up to a certain amount. You’ll have the usual benefits like ATM access and linked debit card.|
|You’ll typically get unlimited electronic withdrawals, check access and ATM access for no monthly fee.|
|Travel bank account||These bank accounts don’t charge an international ATM fee, or it will have a worldwide ATM network to get cheaper withdrawals.|
How do I compare everyday accounts?
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a checking account.
- Options for accessing your cash. Get your cash from a teller, online or from an ATM. Online banking allows you to view your account, make payments, deposits and transfers right from your computer. Many banks offer mobile apps, making online banking even more convenient.
- What are the monthly fees and charges? Compare the fees that various banks charge. Some banks will charge if you don’t maintain a minimum balance, while others charge for using in-branch bank tellers.
- Debit card. If your bank issues a debit card, see if it’s backed by a major credit card provider like Visa or Mastercard. This will allow you to make purchases in stores and online.
- ATM. The quickest and easiest way to access your money is through an ATM. Some banks will charge fees for using ATMs at other banks, while others will waive them. Check the network to see how many ATMs are close to you.
- International transactions. Larger banks with an international presence can provide you with certain services if you travel overseas, including cash withdrawals at ATMs. Check the fees for international money transfers, overseas purchases and currency conversion when looking at different checking accounts.
Can I rent an ATM for my business? If so, how?
Yes, there are numerous companies that allow you to lease or even buy an ATM for your business. Many work by sharing a percentage of the transaction earnings with you. You can also contact a bank, as many will pay you to have their ATM.
How do I compare banks?
There are several features to consider when deciding on a bank, including:
- Your banking needs.
- Your current and future financial goals.
- The products and services a bank offers.
- The bank’s fees for the transactions you’re likely to conduct regularly.
- The Internet banking and mobile app platform.
- Branch and ATM locations.
- Customer support options.
- How long it has been in business.
- Its reputation among friends, family and other consumers.
Thinking about using your bank account overseas or for online shopping?
What’s the best US bank online account for overseas use?
Your best option is to look for an account that can be accessed from overseas and also charges minimal fees when you withdraw funds abroad. There are a range of banks that offer online accounts.
What is the best account to use overseas?
Hoa is looking for an US bank account that meets the following requirements:
- Online only (although it’s OK if the bank has physical branches)
- Can be accessed without requiring an SMS code
He is currently living overseas and his current bank has moved to a system that requires him to enter an SMS code each time he wants to log in to his account. There are a few options he may want to consider:
- RaboDirect: While a phone is not required as part of its online banking system, you do receive a DigiPass that holds the codes for you to log into your account.
- Citibank: Citibank’s iPhone app allows you to generate codes, but you’ll need a working U.S. phone number to activate this feature. Bonus: Citibank’s Plus account offers fee-free international money transfers.
- Purchasing a cheap US SIM card: This will solve the SMS problem.
Where’s the best place to exchange or transfer money to another country?
There are a number of services that specialize in currency exchange. Our guide lets you compare your international money transfer options.
Which bank has the best* or worst customer service?
Since finder.com.au is an online comparison and information service, we’re not in a position to offer commentary or opinions. Instead, you may be interested in looking at other sites like Product Review.
Where can I deposit a USD checks and get the best exchange rate?
There are a few options you may want to consider:
- Deposit the cheque into your regular checking account, although you may be hit with a range of fees
- Deposit the cheque into a multi-currency account. There will be fees, but you may get a better exchange rate.
How does my foreign income get taxed?
Any foreign income you earn will be taxed and needs to be declared on your tax return. This includes employment income, investment income, business income, pensions and capital gains.
Are there USD accounts that can take USD PayPal US withdrawals?
Yes, but you will only be able to withdraw funds to a US bank account in US dollars. This option is not possible for US bank accounts.
What should I consider when choosing a bank account for managing my family's budget?There are many factors to consider when choosing a bank account to manage your family budget. For example, you’ll probably want a joint account that offers minimal transaction fees for the regular bills you pay. If you want to use the account to pay for big-ticket purchases such as family vacations, you’ll want to earn interest on your balance.
How much should I save per week?
The answer to this question depends on your situation. If you have an aggressive savings goal, then you may want to save about 30 to 40% of your salary. If you just want to put away some money, up to 20% is a good rule of thumb.
Why should I get a checking account?
- Money management. A checking account gives you a secure place to keep your money, where you can easily deposit income and pay bills. The bank statements give you a record of your transactions so you can better manage your spending.
- Purchase power. A debit card with a credit card logo gives you unlimited access to your money.
- Convenience. If you choose a checking account that has online banking, you’ll be able to see your balance daily and manage your spending.
- ATM access. With your linked debit card, you can access your funds at an ATM for more flexibility.
What are the risks involved with checking account?
There are a few things you should watch out for so you can maximize the benefits of a checking account:
- Fees. There are various fees for every checking account. Don’t only look at monthly fees, but also look for check transactions, overseas purchases and teller assistance.
- Minimum deposits. Some accounts require a monthly minimum balance or you’ll be charged a fee.
- Too many transactions. In some cases you’re allowed a certain number of transactions with your ATM withdrawals or teller assistance before you start paying fees.
- Online purchases. Be sure that you understand the fees for purchases made overseas online. You may be charged extra or you’ll pay an exchange rate.
Tips to make the most of your checking account
Balancing your checkbook
Keeping your checkbook (or register) balanced is an essential part of maintaining your checking account. All deposits and withdrawals should be recorded here. This way you know how much you have in your account at all times. You can also compare this to your account online to check for accuracy.
Common options for overdraft protection
Most all banks now offer some form of overdraft protection. Depending on your bank, you can link your checking account to another financial account. Then if you overdraw on your checking account, your bank will pull money from your linked account. Be aware: This type of transaction almost always comes with a fee.
Consequences of bounced checks
If you write a check for more money than you have in your account, that check will “bounce.” Bouncing a check can come with severe consequences. First, you will incur an insufficient funds fee/overdraft fee, typically around $35. It also could negatively affect your credit. And you might face legal consequences. It’s important to reach out to your bank and the person or institution you wrote the check to as soon as you realize the error.
Ways to safeguard your logins, statements, PIN and other sensitive financial info
- Establish strong passwords and PINs.
- Don’t use public internet connections or computers when accessing your account.
- Review your statements for suspicious transactions.
- Always log completely out of your account.
- Opt for paperless statements, and access them online instead.
Common checking account fees
Knowing the common fees you might incur is the first step in avoiding them. Here’s what to look out for:
- Overdraft fee. If you spend more money than what is in your account, your bank will penalize you.
- Minimum balance fee. Many checking accounts require you to maintain a minimum balance or pay a fee.
- ATM fee. If you use an ATM other than your bank’s, you could be charged a small fee.
- Foreign transaction fee. If you make purchases while overseas using your checking account, you will likely be charged a fee.
- Paper statement fee. If you opt to receive a hard copy of your statement in the mail, you might have to pay for the service.
- Deposit fee. Having money deposited into your account from another bank could come with a fee.
- Transfer fee. Transferring money out of your checking account to another bank might cost you.