A Message from Consumer Action

Consumer Action's MoneyWi$e educational materials have moved to our Managing Money Project website. Here you may view, download and order bulk copies of the MoneyWi$e materials. Please make a note of the Managing Money Project address— www.managing-money.org —and add it to your address book.

Help Desk FAQ

Banking

 

How do I choose a good savings or checking account that doesn’t charge any fees?

A checking account enables you to pay bills safely, avoid carrying cash, and track your spending. A savings account gives you a safe place to keep your money and may make it easier to achieve your financial goals. When choosing either type of account, look for one that does not charge any fees. Some ways to avoid account fees:
  • Shop around. Ask for the best account with no or very low fees.
  • Consider a credit union. Generally speaking, non-profit credit unions charge lower fees than banks. You can find a credit union at http://www.findacreditunion.com.
  • Consider an account that requires you to maintain a minimum balance if you are confident that you will not let your account balance drop below that level. Ask how the account balance is calculated for the purpose of meeting the minimum requirement. (Some institutions will charge a fee if your balance drops below a particular point at any time during the month, while others use a daily average.)
  • Consider an account that waives fees if you don’t exceed a certain number of ATM/debit card transactions or checks in a single month if you are sure you can stay within the limit.
  • When prevailing interest rates are low, don’t choose an account that pays higher interest but charges a fee over a no-fee account that pays no or low interest.
  • Understand your account agreement. Know, for example, if you must make 10 debit card transactions per month or keep a certain balance to avoid a fee.
  • Check your statements (paper or online). Ask about any unexpected fees; consider switching accounts if they are unavoidable. (This practice also helps you catch any unauthorized transactions or errors.)
  • Read communications from your financial institution—they may notify you of account changes, including new or higher fees.
  • If you plan to use the ATM frequently, make sure that you choose a financial institution with one more branches conveniently located. Being able to use your own institution’s ATMs will help you avoid significant fees. Find out if your institution charges a fee if you use another bank’s ATM. (The other bank will charge a fee.)
Also, make sure the institution is FDIC-insured (FDIC stands for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which is an independent government agency that replaces funds in checking, savings, and other deposit accounts if an insured financial institution fails) or, in the case of credit unions, NCUA-insured. Accounts are insured up to at least $250,000. The easiest way to know if your bank or credit union is insured is to look for the FDIC or NCUA sign that must be displayed at each teller window. You can also call the FDIC toll-free (877-275-3342), or use the FDIC’s “Bank Find" feature at http://www.fdic.gov/deposit. For credit unions, call 800-755-1030 or visit http://www.ncua.gov.
 
 
 
 
 

Quick Menu

Support Consumer Action

Support Consumer

Join Our Email List

Optional Member Code
Facebook FTwitter T

MoneyWise Modules

Managing Money Topics

Help Desk

Advocacy