Checking accounts are fundamental to healthy finances, but according to research from TD Bank, ATM, overdraft and minimum balance fees can frustrate consumers who are otherwise happy with their checking account.1 But good news: you don't need to pay for checking. When you combine technology, bank resources and a few smart choices, it's easy to minimize costs. Here are some tips to get your started:
Which account is right for you?
Many bank accounts require customers to maintain an average or daily balance to avoid a monthly fee. Minimum balances vary by account and bank so it's important to understand any requirements on your account.
Find accounts with no or low minimum balance requirements. Research online or talk with your local financial institution to find the right account. For example, TD Bank has a couple checking accounts that can help you avoid fees: TD Simple CheckingSM skips the minimum balance requirement by offering customers a consistent, low monthly cost that they can budget for every month, and TD Convenience CheckingSM only requires a $100 minimum daily balance to avoid a monthly fee.
Whichever bank and account you choose, see if your bank's online site or app can set up free balance alerts. You can set it up so you receive an email if you're at risk of dropping below your balance threshold.
How to avoid ATM fees.
When you use an ATM outside your bank's network, transactions can cost up to $4. That adds up quickly, but with a little planning you can avoid these costs. Choose a bank that's available when and where you need it. Think about where your daily routine takes you, and choose a bank that has stores on your way to and from work, near the gym and other places you go often.
If you know you'll be using ATMs outside of your bank's network, look for accounts that reimburse these costs. For example, TD Premier CheckingSM offers high-value services including the reimbursement of any ATM fees for customers who keep a minimum daily balance of $2,500.
You can also save money using your bank's mobile app. Check your balance, deposit checks and find the nearest store or ATM all on the go. No smartphone? Many banks have a toll-free number, and some like TD, even have 24/7 live customer support.
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When you're thinking about which account to choose, don't make overdraft coverage an afterthought. Not all overdraft services are created equal, so talk to your bank to figure out what overdraft services are available and right for your account.
Use your bank's app, ATM, store or phone support to keep track of your balance, and keep track of outstanding checks and scheduled bill payments to know if you're in danger of overdrafting. Using your bank's online bill pay services can help you keep track: you can automatically schedule (and space out) your recurring monthly costs to avoid having multiple bills hit at the same time. All TD Checking accounts, for example, offer free online bill pay.
Bailey, Ryan. Smart Banking: Simple Steps to Skip Fees and Add Value to Your Checking Account. TD Bank US. N.p. Unknown. N.d. December 2013.
1TD Bank and Angus Reid Public Opinion. TD Bank Checking Experience Index. https://mediaroom.tdbank.com/checkingexperience. N.p. unknown. N.d. December 2013.