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Know the Basics When Opening a New Checking Account

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For many people opening your first bank account didn’t require much thought or effort. You most likely got an account with the same bank that your friends or family members use. It was conveniently located and provided all of the basic services you needed. Sure, the hours were a pain and you found yourself paying fees you didn’t really understand but most banks were pretty much the same, right? That’s where you are wrong, and the differences could be costing you hundreds of dollars a year.

Minimum Balances

Looking at checking accounts, many banks have a number of options for customers. Many of them offer options geared towards students and senior citizens with little or no minimum balance. Minimum balances are the amount of money you are required to keep in your checking account for it to be in good standing. Many banks have a number of ways to enforce this, the most common being a monetary penalty for accounts that drop beneath the minimum. If you are the person who tends to run low on funds right before payday or around the holidays it might be worth it to find out if your bank has a zero or low minimum checking account.

Deposit Options

Can you deposit a check by phone? How about at an ATM? Most people have busy lives and standing in line at the bank to make a deposit is one errand most of us would like to remove from our perpetual To-Do list. What options does your bank offer? How long after a deposit is made will the funds become available? Are there different policies for direct deposits, personal checks, company checks, and cash? Sit down with a customer service rep and discuss these issues to make sure that your bank’s deposit options work for you.

Overdraft Fees & Protection

If you’ve ever bounced a check you know the pain of mounting overdraft fees. Not only do you have to pay the amount of money you overspent, but a pretty steep fee is usually tacked on. This can be especially frustrating if you overspent by just a few dollars or a few cents. Some banks charge compounded overdraft fees, where the fee balloons the longer the account remains delinquent. One way to avoid that is overdraft protection, which many banks offer. This may be attached to a savings account, where the bank will automatically move money from savings into checking to cover the amount. Save money and hassle by looking into overdraft protection.

ATM Withdrawals

ATM fees are another way that choosing the wrong bank can cost you money in the long run. Choose a bank that either has many ATMs available in your area, or no ATM fees. Some banks allow you to have a number of ATM transactions without a fee. Take a look at your bank’s ATM policies and see if they are right for you. Chances are, you may not use ATMs enough to notice the fees. But if you often stop at an ATM, or travel frequently and need to make cash transactions, you should familiarize yourself with your bank’s ATM policies and whether or not they work for you.

Taking the time to review these policies and shop around for a bank that fits your lifestyle best can help you manage your money and avoid unnecessary fees.


Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.


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