Big Banks That Still Offer Free Checking


NEW YORK (RateWatch) – Welcome to the new era of personal checking.

The funeral bells for free checking have been tolling for well over a year now, and the list of big banks still offering free, no-strings-attached checking accounts dwindles with each passing month. Bank of America announced in November it would discontinue its free checking accounts, and last week laid out an array of “banking solutions” to help customers navigate the new account landscape. With banks seeking to recoup revenue lost due to new limits on interchange fees (imposed by the Durbin Amendment of the Dodd-Frank Act), other institutions have indicated that new checking fees could be in the pipeline.

If you don’t want to pay for checking, you have two options. The first is to meet the free checking criteria of your bank, which usually involves meeting a minimum balance, setting up direct deposit or using online banking. The second, of course, is to find a bank that still lets you check for free. Using data from RateWatch, we found which of the nation’s 10 largest retail banks (based on total assets) were still offering free checking without any conditions.

Here are the monthly fees for non-interest checking accounts at the nation’s 10 largest banks. Because fees will vary slightly from state to state, the fee listed is a national average.

1.    Chase Manhattan: $10.11
2.    Bank of America: $11.49
3.    Citibank: $7.94
4.    Wells Fargo Bank: $3.27
5.    Wachovia Bank: $0
6.    US Bank: $0
7.    PNC Bank: $0
8.    HSBC Bank: $6.33
9.    SunTrust Bank: $0
10.  Branch Banking & Trust Company: $11.21

The list is a short one, alas, and comes with a few snags. SunTrust Bank, one of only four banks with no monthly fees, operates in the Southeast only. There’s also Wachovia, which – wait, never mind. Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo at the end of 2008, and announced this week it would stop offering free checking to new customers on Feb. 5.

Of course, you don’t need to go with one of the big national banks, and many smaller institutions still offer free checking services. And keep in mind many online checking accounts are free (and even reimburse ATM fees for increased convenience). Also, if you’re willing to have an online-only account, chances are you meet the free checking requirement at your current bank already since many banks will let you check for free if you bank online and get electronic statements.

If you’re looking for a big bank with free checking, there are still a few options left. The only problem is that those options are shrinking every day.

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