Free checking is not exactly a unicorn in the world of banking, but with all the fees that banks and even credit unions impose now, it can certainly seem like it's difficult to find a truly free account. Most financial institutions have some sort of fee schedule, even if just for overdrafts, but more banks are starting to offer basic checking options that do not have a monthly fee or a high account minimum. These accounts often don't have the perks that non-free accounts have, like interest or unlimited check writing, but they are worth having for a few reasons.
No Sub-minimum Fees to Drain Your Account
If your checking account requires you to keep a certain minimum in the account to avoid a monthly fee, you can find your account quickly decimated should you be unable to put more money into the account each month. Account minimums can be difficult to maintain if the minimums are too high and the account holder's income is too low. Over the past several years, people who were originally able to handle high minimums may have seen their pay slashed, making it much harder to maintain that amount of several hundred and even thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, that leads to the bank charging a monthly fee that further lowers the amount in the account, making it harder to meet the minimum again. While the fees may not sound like much, $5 here, $3 there, they can be devastating for people who are in dire financial straits. A free account that does not require a minimum, or at least not a high one, is much easier to maintain while preserving the money you do have.
Few or No Hoops to Jump Through to Maintain the Account
Sometimes just keeping an account open can cost money, even if you're meeting the minimum balance each month. There can be general monthly fees to have the account, fees if you don't make a certain number of transfers, fees if you don't have direct deposit, and so on. A free checking account does not have these requirements, and the requirements they do have are much easier to meet, such as agreeing to have bank statements delivered electronically instead of getting paper copies.
Possibly Less Waste Through Electronic Banking
Speaking of electronic delivery of statements, many free checking accounts do rely on email and apps now. These accounts do not have paper statements, and some are through online banks that have no physical locations other than the main headquarters. This can help cut down on waste. So, while you're saving money, you're also participating in a more environmentally friendly way of life.
It always helps to have a free checking account because you never know what will happen with your financial situation. If you ever need to preserve your money, the last thing you want is a monthly fee.