Banks Offering Free Checking Has Declined from 65% to 38%

Mike Randall
By: Mike Randall
Updated: July 24, 2014 publishes personal finance studies on the latest trends in the subprime marketplace. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines.

A recent survey of the 50 largest credit unions in the U.S. showed most still offer free standalone checking accounts.

The study shows 72 percent of the largest credit unions offer no monthly service fees and no transaction fees, regardless of the account balance. Conversely, only 38 percent of banks and thrifts make the same offer.

Furthermore, an additional 24 percent of credit unions have minimal requirements such as direct deposit or e-statements in order to qualify for free checking. This means a total of 96 percent of the country’s largest credit unions offer some form of free checking.

The percentage of free checking offered at credit unions has declined slightly since 2010, from 78 percent to 72 percent. At banks, however, the decline has been much more drastic, from 65 percent to 38 percent over the same period.

“Free checking offered at banks

went from 65 to 38 percent.”

The study also shows the deviation in fees and charges between credit unions and banks doesn’t stop there.

Here are some more differences in fees between the two types of financial institutions:

  • The most common out-of-network ATM fees for credit unions are between $1 and $1.50, while banks typically charge between $2 and $3.
  • Typical nonsufficient funds fees at credit unions are $25 verus $35 at banks.
  • 54 percent of credit unions had no minimum opening deposit requirement, and none in the survey required more than $100.

Banks and credit unions are competing fiercely for your business. If you’re looking to open a new checking account, carefully consider which type of institution best meets your needs.

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