(Family Features) For everything from paying for lunch to paying the water bill, a checking account is the primary tool many Americans use to make day-to-day financial transactions. But for many consumers free checking is becoming a thing of the past as banks notify their customers that “free” accounts are being discontinued.
A recent survey by TD Bank highlights frustration with these changes, as fees top the list of why consumers would close their current checking account. Over 30 percent have considered changing checking accounts or financial institutions due to fees, and more than two-thirds are likely to switch to avoid future fees.
But no-cost checking isn’t extinct. When one bank moves away from offering free accounts, there are likely others who can offer more value.
Understand your bank’s benefits
“It’s important to continuously evaluate your financial needs and to review any changes your bank has made,” said Lindsay Sacknoff, senior vice president of retail deposit products at TD Bank. “If your bank is phasing out free checking, then take the time to shop around because there are convenient alternatives that may have lower monthly balance requirements and better benefits.”
What’s more, the study revealed that, on average, consumers with a minimum balance fee on their checking account require a balance of $950.
“Keeping $500 to $1,000 in checking may not be feasible for many account holders,” Sacknoff said. “Choosing your checking account based on the best fit to your current financial circumstances can help you avoid unnecessary expense and frustration.”
Choosing the right bank
Your bank account may not be the first thing you think of when you think of advancing in your career, buying a home or embarking upon other big life events. But a review of how much money you can comfortably keep in an account as well as the convenience and features you’re looking for from your bank may be a good idea when considering a switch.
For example, institutions such as TD Bank offer accounts that require only a $100 minimum balance to avoid monthly maintenance costs which may be a good fit for someone starting out in their career or for a family that is managing significant expenses. If earning power grows or expenses are reduced, it makes sense to explore the benefits of a premium account, which often requires a higher minimum balance but offers benefits like paying interest on your balance and reimbursement for out of network ATM fees.
For those looking to buy a home, choosing the right account can help keep more dollars in your wallet. For example, account holders at TD Bank who also finance their home at the bank receive a .125 percent discount on their mortgage rate which can translate into hundreds of dollars of savings a year.
Simple Steps to Skip Fees
Choosing a bank that makes it easy to avoid fees is an important step to protect yourself from unnecessary costs. You can also avoid frustration with the rising cost of banking services by making smart choices and using new technologies and resources from banks.
Avoid Costs at the ATM
- Choose a bank with convenient hours, locations and ATMs.
- Investigate accounts that reimburse ATM costs.
- Take advantage of features like online and mobile banking to check your balance instead of using a non-bank ATM.
- Get cash back with debit transactions, eliminating trips to the ATM.
Plan Against Overdrafts
- Always know your balance.
- Schedule automatic bill payments through online banking to manage when bills hit your account.
- Consider receiving your paycheck through direct deposit so money is immediately available on the day you’re paid.
Manage Minimum Balances
- Investigate accounts that have a low minimum balance.
- Set balance alerts to let you know if you’re at risk of dropping below your balance threshold.
Source: TD Bank (www.tdbank.com)
Easy Switch Checklist
Changing banks can be challenging. This checklist, provided by the experts at TD Bank, will help you navigate the process with an outline of the steps you need to make the most of your new account.
1. Open your new account.
2. Get your debit card.
3. Enroll in online banking.
4. Set up bill pay.
5. Bookmark the online banking website.
6. Download your bank’s mobile banking app.
7. Close your old account (just remember to verify all transactions have cleared on your old account first).
With online banking, you likely have a number of automated transactions, including debits and payments. To ensure a seamless transition, be sure to update your new banking information.
Common Automated Direct Deposits
- Employer payroll
- Federal government benefits (Social Security, veteran pension, etc.)
- Brokerage deposit
- Child support or other court-issued deposits
- Other direct deposits
Typical Bills and Payments
- Credit cards
- Internet/cellular service
- Insurance (home, auto, renters, etc.)
- Loans (cars, home equity, etc.)
- Child support or court-ordered payments
- Brokerage investments
- Transfers to other accounts
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