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I just found out that US Bank is about to start charging for checking accounts if you don't also have a savings account (or direct deposit). I'll probably just open a savings account, but it prompted me to think about changing to another bank.

All I ever do is write checks, deposit/cash checks, and transfer money to my savings account. Is there a better bank for me?

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Where in the US? I am in Oregon and I haven't gotten that notice yet! Or did I miss it!?!? –  MrChrister Mar 12 '11 at 20:13
    
I'm based in Nevada. I haven't received an official notice - they just told me when I went into the branch. –  Jeremy Mar 13 '11 at 4:33
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5 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The best bank with least amount of gotchas is Alliant Credit Union. I did a lot of research and finally decided on this bank.

I did a comparative study between ING, Ally and Alliant and found Alliant to be superior than the the other two.

More about my study: http://www.moneycone.com/a-bank-thats-better-than-ally-and-ingdirect/

If you do find a better bank than this, please update this post, I'd definitely like to know!

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with either of the three banks.

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Nice write up. I use US Bank also and now I am looking for a new home. My local CU is great, but not easy enough to reach. I am thinking Alliant is in the running with ING –  MrChrister Mar 12 '11 at 21:05
    
Thanks MrChrister! Alliant has been consistently ahead of ING with the rates. I would rate Ally the second since they offer free ATM usage; Alliant only provides free use of their (or other CU) ATMs. –  MoneyCone Mar 13 '11 at 13:19
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Check with a small local bank or credit union, they might offer better terms. That said, my local credit union still charges $6/month for a checking account if you don't have a direct deposit into it.

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Here's a hack for getting the "free" checking that requires direct deposit. Some effort to set up, but once everything is in place, it's all autopilot.

  1. Open a savings account at someplace like ING Direct. (It probably works the same with Ally or the others, but I've only used ING.)
  2. At ING, set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking into your ING account.
  3. At ING, set up an automatic biweekly transfer from ING into your checking account. (Make sure the transfer from #2 will cover this in months where there are three transfers per month.) This transfer looks like direct deposit to the computers at your bank so you don't get flagged for a fee (at least as far as I can tell at my credit union).

(If your transfer into savings is higher than your transfer out of savings, you'll build up a nice little stash over time.)

I don't know if there are deposit amounts or frequencies that you must have to qualify for the free account, if these are public or secret, or if this works everywhere. If anyone else has experience using this kind of hack, please leave a comment.

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If you want to deposit checks or conduct business at a window, you should look at a local savings bank or credit union. Generally, you can find one that will offer "free" checking in exchange for direct deposit or a minimum balance. Some are totally free, but those banks pay zippo for interest.

If you don't care about location, I would look at Charles Schwab Bank. I've been using them for a couple of years and have been really satisfied with them. They provide free checking, ATM fee reimbursement, free checks and pre-paid deposit envelopes. You also can easily move money between Schwab brokerage or savings accounts.

Other brokers offer similar services as well.

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Online banks are the future. As long as you don't need a clerk to talk to (and why would you need?) there's nothing you can't do with an online bank that you can with a brick and mortar robbers.

I use E*Trade trading account as a checking account (it allows writing paper checks, debit card transactions, ACH in/out, free ATM, etc). If you don't need paper checks that often you can use ING or something similar.

You can always go to a local credit union, but those will wave the fee in exchange for direct deposit or high balance, and that you can also get from the large banks as well, so no much difference there.

Oh where where did Washington Mutual go....

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I don't trust online banks to all of my money. In the event of a disaster (say an earthquake) I want cash, and I want it quickly. –  duffbeer703 Mar 14 '11 at 15:50
    
And how brick-and-mortar banks are going to help you? If ATM works - you can get cash from the online bank just as well. If not - it doesn't matter. –  littleadv Mar 14 '11 at 17:51
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