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How to Choose a Checking Account

A checking account is an invaluable financial tool, one that allows you to carefully and effectively manage your money coming in and going out. Do you know how to choose the right checking account for you, though? Not all are the same.

Surveying the different banks and credit unions near you and choosing the right checking account will help you to meet your financial goals and have a simple, efficient way of managing your flow of money. If you choose the wrong checking account, you could face limitations on how you use it, or you could end up paying significant and avoidable fees. To choose the best option for your needs, take a look at the key features of a checking account that can make a big difference.

What to Look for in a Checking Account

Wondering what to know before opening a bank account? When choosing a checking account, access the terms and conditions as well as all information provided by the financial institution about the account. Compare more than one account from each financial institution as well as multiple financial institutions to find the best account for your needs. Some of the most important factors to consider include the following.

Account Types

Whether you choose to go through a bank or credit union, several types of checking accounts exist today, each one with different features and perks that may fit your needs. When comparing the features of a checking account, start with the type so you understand the expected functionality of the account. Common options include:

  • Standard checking accounts: A typical product, sometimes with or without fees, these checking accounts are a good option for those who do not carry a lot of money in their account and want a simple-to-use tool. They typically do not earn any dividends.
  • Interest-bearing checking accounts: While these accounts function in the same way, they also have dividends applied to the balance you carry day-to-day. That interest helps your money grow in value. That’s a good thing, but also consider that some of these accounts have higher fees as a result.
  • Online-only accounts: This type of checking account is meant for the person who makes most of their transactions online. They typically do not have paper checks for you to write, though you can still withdraw cash from them at your local ATM (with fees in some cases)

Fees and Charges

Costs are a big factor to know before opening a bank account like this, and they vary significantly from one financial institution to the next. Some financial institutions have no-fee checking accounts, especially for very simple, basic accounts. However, others have fees such as the following:

  • Monthly maintenance fees: These are often charged as a service fee to cover the cost of maintaining the account.
  • ATM fees: Some financial institutions always charge an ATM fee for withdrawals, while others may charge a fee only when you’re using an out-of-network ATM. Others have no fees.
  • Overdraft fees: These are fees charged any time more money is taken from your account than is maintained within it. These can be per transaction and may add up.

Look for a checking account that does not charge fees whenever possible. Some will have overdraft fees no matter what, but you can avoid those by linking your checking to your savings account and approving in-bank transfers for such situations. Not all financial institutions offer this feature, so be sure to look at what both brick and mortar banks and online banks have to offer.

Account Requirements

As you consider what to look for in a checking account, consider what the financial institution wants and needs from you in order to open an account. All financial institutions need to verify your identity to ensure that you are opening the account legally. However, what you need to provide to do this may differ between organizations. Typically, you will need to show proof of your identity with a driver’s license or state-issued identification, along with some proof of address.

Also, consider the accessibility of the account:

  • Does the account provide you with access to ATMs that are in-network and close to you?
  • How hard is it to visit the location if you want to do so?
  • Is there a minimum balance requirement to open the account or to maintain it?
  • Is there a monthly deposit obligation you need to make to obtain access to features like higher interest rates?
  • Does the bank offer online banking features and mobile apps so you can pay your bills and manage your money digitally?

Additional Features and Services

Many financial institutions go further and offer a wide range of additional features or services to meet your needs. Look at these programs with a careful eye. Is there an extra cost for them? Are there any added fees to accessing these accounts or limitations on doing so? Here are a few key options to consider:

  • Does the checking account offer mobile banking apps to help you digitally manage your money?
  • Is there a rewards program associated with the account that may offer discounts or other savings if you are using your debit card enough, for example?
  • Some accounts offer budgeting tools that can help you see how you are spending your money or send text alerts when there’s a need to do so.

Depending on the way you use your money, you may want key features of a checking account that are more robust. For example, bill payment features make it possible for you to make payments for utilities and other costs online. You may need check-writing privileges (and not all checking accounts offer these), or you may want to be able to set up direct deposit with your employer.

Take the time to learn about each of these features and then talk to customer service. Be sure they offer exceptional support and guidance to you.

Choosing a Checking Account

Are you ready to get started? Here’s how to choose a checking account that fits your needs.

Assessing Personal Financial Needs

Consider these factors before moving forward.

  • Do you plan to keep a significant amount of money in your checking account? You may benefit from an interest-bearing account.
  • Consider your income and expenses. Do you need or could you benefit from budgeting tools?
  • Consider your short-term and long-term financial plans. For example, do you want a simple way to transfer money from your checking account into your emergency funds account, savings, or other investment accounts?

Consider the features most important to you based on the way you hope to access and use your money.

Researching Different Financial Institutions and Accounts

Next, take the time to check out a few different locations. The key here is to ensure there is a balance between the features you want and need and the cost. Compare:

  • Interest earning capacity
  • Fees
  • Features that fit your objectives
  • Customer reviews and testimonials about the quality of service
  • Security
  • Financial health of the financial institution
  • Account options

Use as many online resources as possible to help you make this decision. That includes bank comparison websites and reviews. However, the best way to get a feel for how well the organization can fit your needs is to interact with the website, the chat features, the mobile app, and even the in-person representatives.

Asking the Right Questions

Before choosing a checking account, ask these questions:

  • What are the eligibility requirements for opening an account? Do you need to be a member first?
  • What are all of the fees associated with this account? Are there any ways to reduce or eliminate those costs?
  • What type of restrictions are on the accounts in terms of use?
  • What do you do if you have a problem with your account?
  • What type of protections are available if someone else accesses your account?

Contact the financial institution directly to learn more about any of these features if you cannot find that information online. You can always schedule an appointment with a representative to discuss your needs.


What is a checking account?

A checking account is a bank account that often supports multiple transactions, including deposits and payments.

Are there any fees associated with checking accounts?

Checking account fees typically include monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees, minimum deposit fees, and others.

Can I have multiple checking accounts?

Yes, you can have as many checking accounts as you like, as this is a good way to diversity and manage your spending.

What are the advantages of online-only checking accounts?

Online-only checking accounts tend to have low fees with minimal limitations in how they are used. Though they don’t offer in-person banking services, they often feature online banking representatives who can help you.

What should I do if I encounter issues with my checking account?

Be sure to know exactly what to do about any concerns by reading through the terms and conditions of the financial institution. Most organizations have customer service representatives who can help you.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to what to look for in a checking account, these features and details matter. Always focus on costs, benefits, and accessibility. Choosing a checking account that aligns with your personal financial goals can help you to manage your money successfully.

Now is the time to learn more about HFS FCU checking accounts. If you have questions, feel free to contact us for more information.


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