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Totally Free Checking Accounts

Free checking accounts are almost extinct with major banks getting rid of free checking or making you jump through hoops to earn it.  There aren’t many financial institutions left, with brick-and-mortar branches, that offer free checking, with no strings attached. So where can you stash your money for free with no minimum balance or hassle and perhaps earn interest along the way?

You can still find totally free checking at a credit union or an internet bank. If you like the convenience of going to a local branch, check out your local credit union. Otherwise, look into these internet bank options below for totally free checking account options.

Local Credit Union

Credit unions are great places to stash money for free! Usually, these free checking accounts earn more interest than banks. And you can find great rates for auto or mortgage loans and great rates for credit cards.

However, since they are not-for-profit, they aren’t covered by the FDIC like most banks. But they have their own private insurance that will insure your money up to a certain amount.

Credit unions used to be exclusive. But it’s now easier to join one. Some credit unions are based on location, while others are based on affiliation through your employer or other organization.

Find a credit union near you.

Pros:

  • Lower interest rates for loans and credit cards
  • Free checking accounts earn interest

Cons:

  • Not FDIC insured, but are privately insured
  • ATMs are not as widely available

Internet Banks

If you are comfortable with banking online, then check out the following internet banks. They offer interest on your balance and you can search for local ATMs. However, if you need to deposit a paper check, you must mail it via a postage-paid envelope provided by the bank.

Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking

Charles Schwab is best known for being a discount brokerage but it also offers free checking. What makes it free is that your banking activities will be done online rather in a bank branch. When you need to make a deposit you can mail it via a pre-paid envelope provided by Schwab,  set up direct deposit, or request a wire transfer from another financial institution.

Pros:

  • Free checks
  • Free online bill pay
  • Earn 0.25% variable APY
  • No minimum balance requirements and no monthly maintenance fees
  • No ATM fees. Schwab will reimburse any ATM fee you are charged— worldwide
  • FDIC insured

Cons:

  • Must mail in your checks, but postage is free
  • Must open a Schwab brokerage account, but not required to use it

Capital One 360

Capital One (formerly ING Direct) has been offering free checking for awhile. With Capital One, you can search for a local ATM that’s free. Some ATM’s are located inside Target or Costco. Plus, you don’t have to open a brokerage account, but no free checks are included.
Earn a $50 bonus when you open an Capital One 360 checking account.

totally free checking accounts

Pros:

  • Earn 0.25% variable APY
  • No minimum balance requirements and no monthly maintenance fees
  • Free Online Bill Pay
  • Free access at over 35,000 ATMs
  • FDIC insured

Cons:

  • Must mail in your checks, but postage is free

Flagstar Direct Express Checking Account

This lesser known, internet bank offers a considerably higher APY for free checking than both Charles Schwab and ING Direct. Flagstar Direct also provides free checks.

Pros:

  • 1.50% APY for first 4 months, 1.06% first year blended APY, then .85% APY after
  • Receive $100 bonus if you establish direct deposit within the first 4 months
  • Free checks for life
  • Free Identity Theft Protection
  • No minimum balance requirements and no monthly maintenance fees
  • Local ATMs
  • FDIC insured

Cons:

  • Must mail in your checks, but postage is free
  • Flagstar will mail 1099 for $100 bonus, when you establish direct deposit within the first 4 months, which may reduce earnings

As you can see, there are still options for free checking available, if you are comfortable with dealing with an internet bank.

Featured in Festival of Frugality – Spend It Edition.

6 Comments on Totally Free Checking Accounts

  1. Jessica07
    January 18, 2011 at 9:58 am (4 years ago)

    This is a great compilation. Thanks for sharing.

  2. DeeDee
    September 15, 2011 at 8:51 am (3 years ago)

    “”Cons: Credit Unions are not FDIC insured….””
    A bit misleading.
    Credit unions are federally insured by NCUA; banks are federally insured by FDIC.
    Both are insured, for an individual depositor, up to $250k. the guidelines for insurance are the same. How it is funded, is different.
    The difference: CU’s self-fund their insurance (they pay for failures themselves, as a collective group, with capitol reserves.) They do not pay taxes, therefore have to do so.
    Banks’ failures (insurance needed to cover deposits insured up to $250,000), are ‘bailed out’ with federal tax monies. Banks pay taxes, therefore makes sense for them to do so.
    Depositors are insured the same, at both (up to $250k)

  3. DeeDee
    September 15, 2011 at 8:53 am (3 years ago)

    Also, ATMs are more widely available for CU’s than banks. CU’s formed a nation-wide network that other CUs can use “surcharge-free” meaning if you’re on vaca in AZ, from TN, you can use a CU ATM and incur no charge for the machine’s use.

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