Even if you can't get a free lunch, free checking accounts seem to offer everything but. Banks and credit unions are freely offering their free checking account customers free checks (naturally), free ATM and/or debit cards, free e-statements, free online access, free unlimited check writing and free direct deposit transactions.

Additional features on free checking accounts may include free ATM use nationwide, overdraft protection plans and even cash bonuses for signing up. So why are banks so eager to get you to sign up for a free checking account that they'd push these unprofitable products? Through these free checking accounts, most banks hope you'll sign up for their other banking products and become a faithful customer.

Keep in mind that not all free checking accounts are actually free. In fact, though most banks offer free checking accounts, probably a quarter of all free checking accounts are completely free, with no restrictions at all. Don't be surprised if you see fees on your free checking account, even legitimate ones, such as fees for stop payments, canceled checks, check printing, insufficient funds or closing an account early. You might have to maintain a specific balance amount or be restricted as to ATM withdrawal limits per day or want to see your paid checks, so make sure your free checking account meets your financial needs and lifestyle. And don't expect to earn interest with your free checking account.

And beware the dark side of free checking accounts: Some people find out after the fact that they're getting charged every time they swipe their debit card, which can add up to be way more expensive than a not-free checking account.


Some of the best free checking accounts now are available online only. These include:

Bank of America MyAccess Checking. No minimum balance required with this free checking account, plus you get free online banking service with bill pay, free Bank of America Visa check card, no monthly maintenance fee, unlimited checkwriting and free access to cash at Bank of America ATMs.

Chase free checking account
. This free checking account offers free online banking and bill pay, free accounts alerts sent by phone or e-mail, free online or phone access to your checking accounts, free access to Chase ATMs, free Chase Debit Card with Zero Liability protection and free mobile banking.

Some free checking accounts even pay you to sign up. These free checking account bonuses can range from $50 to $150, and usually are limited time offers, so check with the banks you're considering to see if you can actually get a free checking account that's better than free.

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