How To

Find the best checking accounts in 3 easy steps

Figuring out what the best checking accounts are can feel like an overwhelming task, especially considering the wide variety of options available. The trick is to find the checking account that makes the most of your money while also avoiding fees, penalties, or other not-so-nice surprises.

Follow these tips to help you choose the best checking account for your needs.

1. Assess your needs

The first step in finding the right account for you is to figure out how you tend to manage (and spend!) your money. Ask yourself some key questions:

  • What is the main purpose of the account?
  • Will you deposit paychecks and pay bills from the account?
  • Do you need the convenience of online bill payments?
  • Do you frequently travel and need online banking access?
  • How widespread is the ATM network, and will it suit your needs?

When you consider how you’ll actually use the account, you’ll substantially narrow down your banking choices.

2. Know what you’re willing to pay

Once you’ve zeroed in on a few financial institutions, examine each potential account’s features and match them up with your needs. This step ensures you don’t wind up paying too much for the account.

  • Some financial institutions will expect you to keep a minimum balance to avoid a monthly fee. Based on your spending habits, is that balance realistic for you to maintain?
  • Does the financial institution have tiered pricing based on the number of monthly transactions you make?
  • Would you like to use the account to make automatic online payments? Does the account charge extra for that?

Checking account fees can add up quickly, so before you commit to a plan, take stock of your average monthly activity to estimate how much you may be paying, if anything, each month. The best checking accounts won’t charge you an arm and a leg for every little transaction.

3. Check out the perks

It’s not just about avoiding extra fees – the best checking accounts also offer attractive perks. Some institutions offer free banking with exclusive online or ATM transactions. Others offer tiered dividend rates based on the balance, or benefits like free checks.

Find an account with the perks that will best suit your particular situation. For example, if you’re a bit disorganized, overdraft protection is a must. Don’t be swayed into opening an account based on perks that you will probably never use.

A little research and some analysis of your spending habits will help you find the right account to meet your needs. When you do choose an account, make a note to reevaluate annually. Your financial needs will likely change over the years and you might find the checking account you originally chose is no longer the best fit. It’s worth the effort – the best checking accounts help you make the most of your money. Assess your lifestyle and preferences and match them up to each option and you’ll be on your way to a simpler, safer, and brighter financial future.

What do you look for in a checking account? Share your best tips in the comments.

Find the best account for you.

Need secure and easy banking options? SAC offers a variety of checking accounts to choose from. Whether you’re looking for no minimums or high dividends, take a look and find the fit just for you.

Get the “Financial Basics Made Easy” e-book and simplify your finances today.

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Author SAC FCU Managing Editor

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