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How to Shop for a Checking Account

shop for a checking accountThere comes a time when you need to shop for a checking account. It may be  your first; it may be your fourth. Understand… there is a correct process to getting a good checking account. What most people do is walk out of their house, drive to the nearest bank and proclaim, “Hi, I’d like a checking account.” That’s silly. Something as important as a checking account (where you keep your spending money!) deserves time spent researching. After all, don’t you want a FANTASTIC checking account? Yes! Then find one with a signup bonus, tons of free ATMs, brilliant customer service, an excellent online dashboard, and overdraft protection. This is how to shop for a checking account: This is the only site you need: DepositAccounts.com. And no, this post isn’t sponsored. I just love that site. I’ve been using it for about 6 years and it has never led me astray.

Bank Ratings

Everyone checks Amazon before buying a product. 5 stars typically means the product is worth buying. The same habit should be applied to bank account shopping. Check a bank’s ratings on DepositAccounts.com to see how well the institution treats its customers. Even if you don’t plan on overdrafting (who does?) it’s still wise to consider their overdraft policy. Many banks will waive at least one automatically. Or you can get overdraft protection by signing up for a savings account. The money from your savings account will save you (pun) once you run out of funds in your checking account.

Signup Bonuses

Believe it or not, it’s easy to get a signup bonus. I’ve gotten one with nearly every checking account I’ve owned. In fact, I wouldn’t advise anyone to open any checking account that doesn’t come with a bonus. The amounts range from $25-$300. It depends on how many hoops there are to jump through. Most just require you to set up direct deposit. You can easily get $100 for doing just that. For $100+, it gets trickier. I wish I could give you more specifics, but bank bonuses come and go. As I write this post, there are plenty of bonuses available to list. But I want this to be an evergreen article. Check DepositAccounts.com upon reading this article to see what’s current.

shop for a checking accountInterest Rate

Everyone jokes that interest rates are horrible. It’s true. I think the best American checking account only offers a touch over 1%. That’s why I recommend you focus more on getting a signup bonus. That’s where the money is made. Plus, it’s not a wise idea to keep a huge excess of cash in a checking account. Therefore, interest will never really add up. Instead, keep your excess ’emergency’ money in a higher-yielding place such as a savings account or certificate of deposit. Also note that interest is taxable on accounts which earn more than $10 in a year. Personally, I try to keep my interest just below $10 so I don’t have to file the 1099-INT. It’s part of why I have multiple checking accounts.

(Derek’s Note: If you want a high-interest rate checking account – take a look at credit unions. They’ll typically yield more than 1%)

Online Presence

Being able to quickly navigate your bank’s website is important. Is it intuitive? Is it fast? Does it include all the information I need? Can I change the names of my accounts? If its online presence is good, you’ll be more likely to pay attention. It’s always wise to pay attention to your money.

Free ATMs

If there’s one thing I loathe, it’s fees. PayPal fees, parking fees, HOA fees… you name it. As you can guess, I especially loathe ATM fees. It’s like, “Give me my money, dang it!” Therefore, I do whatever it takes to avoid those pesky fees. The most effective way of doing this is to create an account with a bank that has lots of free ATMs. But the bank you like may be small. How is it supposed to have 200,000 ATMs spaced evenly from coast-to-coast? There are ways. Many small banks and community credit unions partner with other banks and CU’s to expand their ATM network. Furthermore, many institutions offer ATM fee reimbursement.

Bottom Line

When you need to shop for a checking account, spend just a few hours researching the best account. Then pull the trigger. The application process is simple. To get your bonus, make sure to follow the reward rules. One word of caution: you may realize after reading this post that you could churn bank accounts just like credit cards. Yes, you could rack up hundreds of dollars per year (maybe even $1,000+) by constantly signing up for new accounts which offer bonuses. But you may consider it to be unethical. Also, banks will usually catch on. Banks use a reporting tool called ChexSystems. This shows how many accounts you’ve open/closed. It’s best not to abuse the system. But feel free to get an easy $200 in bonuses from opening up 2 new accounts. It’s always a good feeling to have two debit cards in case one gets lost or stolen. Credit cards often charge a lot for cash advances! Happy shopping! If you have any questions, ask away and you’ll get an answer. 🙂

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AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

3 Comments

  1. Will, is there a difference in interest rates between a savings account and a checking account? I’ve been wanting to know more about these accounts to better explain my kids. Now that this year one of them is graduating from high school and going to be leaving home.

  2. Might I suggest a credit union? Of course you still want to compare but now having been a member of one for 10 yrs (and yes I still compare, typically every year when I look at insurance companies etc), it was the best decision I ever made.

    • Yup, I totally agree. I love my credit union and they pay me well for letting them borrow my money.


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