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Checking Bank Account - What to Look For in a Checking Bank Account

getting a debit card fees and penalties online account management

While cash is a useful financial tool to have on-hand, there are many circumstances that make it a less-than-ideal means of exchange. Cash is not safe to send through the mail and it can be cumbersome to carry large amounts on your person. Because of this, most adults find a checking bank account to be a very useful addition to their financial plan. While a checking bank account is usually fairly simple to open, there are many different types of plans and fee schedules. Assessing each of these factors can ensure that you select the account that is best for your needs.

Is Free Checking Right For You?

Most people who use a checking bank account need fairly basic service. You will probably be writing checks, receiving direct deposits and occasionally making use of special services. If this is the case, then a free checking account is probably ideal. Free accounts have no fees associated with using the bank account. You can usually make use of basic features for absolutely no cost. Most free checking accounts have no minimum balance, but this is not always the case, so read the fine print or ask before agreeing to the terms of the account. Of course, there will still be costs associated with using the account, such as ordering checks. You will also have to pay any associated fees or penalties that you incur.

Does Interest-Bearing Make Sense?

For those that have a financial plan that is more systematic, choosing a bare-bones checking bank account may not be the ideal choice. If you regularly carry a balance in your checking account and want to see your money work for you, an interest-bearing account can make sense. In most cases, the amount of your return will not exceed what the same bank offers for a savings, money-market or CD account. However, you can earn some interest while still having regular access to the funds. Most interest-bearing checking accounts require that a minimum balance be maintained in order to continue earning the return. The balance requirement may be as small as $500 and as much as several thousand. Allowing your balance to drop below this amount may lead to a penalty or fee.

Getting a Debit Card

Regardless of what type of checking account you select, having instant access to your funds is something that many people appreciate. One of the most convenient tools that you can make use of in association with your checking account is a debit card. Most banks issue Visa or MasterCard debit cards that can be used anywhere that these are accepted. They can be used exactly like a credit card, but instead of generating a debt with each purchase, the amount is withdrawn directly from your checking bank account balance. Most banks do not charge any extra fee for issuing a debit card. In some instances, you can even apply for a modest credit line to be attached to the card, protecting against overdrafts. If you tap into this credit, however, an associated interest rate will be applied, so use this tool wisely.

Fees and Penalties

Every checking bank account should have a list of fees and penalties that are associated with the account. The bank is required to issue this information for full disclosure when you open the account. Look this over carefully so that you are aware of what charges you may see on your bank checking account. Some common fees include those associated with bounced or returned checks, overdrafting your account, drawing from a credit line and other normal activities. You may also be required to pay for convenience features such as obtaining a copy of your canceled checks, ordering cashier’s checks and other incidental services that the bank may offer.

Online Account Management

With modern technology, almost all banks provide instant access to your checking bank account information via the Internet. In order to take advantage of this service, you must complete the sign-up process. For safety and security sake, your bank may require several steps before you are able to log-in to this system. In addition, safety features and identifiers will probably be used each time you sign in. Your online account statement offers extra features, such as an electronic copy of canceled checks and automatic and recurring online bill payments.

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