Things to Ask When Looking at Checking Bank Accounts

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Not all checking bank accounts are created equal especially where unique consumer needs are concerned. Often, consumers will open a particular checking account without much thought in the misguided and misinformed notion that a checking account by any other name is a checking account.

Well, that may apply to roses but when it comes to checking accounts, or any bank accounts for that matter, it pays to ask relevant questions and get satisfactory answers. After all, this is your precious money we are talking about.

What Are the Freebies?

Nowadays, banks will employ aggressive marketing tactics to encourage prospective customers to consider their checking accounts over their competitors. One of the most used tactics are freebies, which can range from free giveaways, free bills payments at certain times of the year, and free accounts, to name a few.

On your part, you must be sufficiently informed about the free checking bank accounts in their entirety. There will always be terms and conditions attached to these freebies like minimum maintaining balances, limited number of checks issued and teller visits, amongst others. You want to avoid hidden fees like extra charges on checks issued beyond the number allowed in the "free checking account" and other problems.

Also, you have to look into minimum balance requirements. You might be free of service fees when you can maintain the minimum deposit balances. Once it falls, you may be charged a service fee that will find your account slowly but surely diminishing.

What Are the Policies on Check Holds?

You want your checks to be good as soon as possible especially when these are to be deposited to your account. For example, local checks can be on a "hold" basis for up to 3 days while out-of-town checks for 7 days.

This can pose problems for you in the future, which you can prevent by asking the bank for "no hold" exceptions to certain checks. For example, you can request them to accept your pension payments, investment accounts and payroll checks to be "good as cash" within the day.

If your present checking bank account presents problems in this area, you might as well consider looking into other financial institutions.

What Are the Policies on Overdrafts?

Although you must strive to avoid overdrafts, returned deposits, not sufficient funds (NSF) and other banking problems, you must also find ways with which to protect yourself when these happen. You might even save money along the way.

Overdraft protection refers to the short-term unsecured loan automatically granted by the bank when your available balance is lower than the check amount issued to the payee. You must pay said loan within a specified period of time with no interest added.

If possible, you must ask for the option of linking two existing accounts within the bank so as to avoid incurring NSF charges and/or getting abovementioned bank loan. And speaking of NSF fees, it pays to canvas the other banks for their NSF charges to determine that indeed your bank offers competitive rates.

Indeed, establishing and maintaining a checking bank account requires an inquisitive mind into the nature of said account. Ultimately, you will benefit from bank services that fit your banking needs just right.
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