Which isn't to say that free checking accounts have disappeared from conventional banks -- if you have one, you know they still exist. Still, some banking experts have predicted that free checking may start to become much more rare by the end of the year.
And why might free checking become harder to find? Starting July 1, when a consumer opens a new checking account, the bank has to ask you if you'd like to opt into overdraft protection for debit card purchases. By Aug. 15, unless you've opted in, banks have to stop debit card overdraft protection for existing accounts.
The thinking among a lot of banking experts is that if banks lose a ton of revenue because they're no longer able to hit customers with an overdraft fee each time they overdraw their account, they'll have to make up the money somewhere. The conventional wisdom is that many banks will start replacing free checking accounts with checking accounts that have a monthly fee, in order to make up that lost revenue.
So Bankrate's survey comes at a welcome time, for those of you who are currently looking for a new bank and free checking, and for those who want to know about other options should the day come when their bank stops offering free checking. Bankrate's survey not only found that many credit unions offer free checking, but their terms are generally very customer friendly. For instance:
- 47 of the 50 credit unions surveyed allow unlimited monthly transactions.
- 27 of the 50 don't have a minimum opening balance on their free checking accounts. And for those who do insist on a minimum opening balance, the average opening balance required for a non-interest free checking account is $16.
- 18 of the 50 don't charge members for ATM withdrawals outside their network.