A checking account is essentially a bank account that provides you with a quick and easy way to access your funds. You can use this account to pay for your bills online as well as through automatic withdrawal, making it extremely convenient and free of any hassle. The money that you spend using your debit card will be instantly taken from your checking account. You will be able to add funds to your account by visiting a local branch of your credit or credit union, or by going online (depending on the financial institution you belong to.)
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Types of Checking Accounts
There are a number of different types of checking accounts, and it is important that you take the time to look into some of them so you can choose one that satisfies your specific needs. Most banks offer a number of different options, so you will need to be fully aware of what all of them are before making a final decision.
1. Free Checking
A free checking account is ideal for most people, as it doesn't come with any monthly service fees, and many times there is no minimum required balance. This means that your balance can be $500 or $0 and you won't have to worry about incurring any fees at all.
An interest-bearing checking account typically requires that you have a certain amount in your account at any given time. With this type of account, you can expect to be charged a fee if your funds dip below a certain amount. The funds you do have in your account will increase slightly with interest, which is typically paid on a monthly basis.
3. Joint Checking
A joint checking account is one that is shared by two or more people. It is not at all uncommon for married couples to have joint checking accounts, and everyone whose name is associated with it has access to the funds in it.
Checking vs. Savings Account
A majority of banks and credit unions place certain restrictions on checking accounts with regards to the number of transactions you can complete within a given month. Savings accounts tend to be limited as far as the number of times you can withdrawal money from an ATM. You will find that a checking account is by far the easiest way to access your funds, whether it is writing a check or using your debit card.
How to Open
After you have done some research into different banks and credit unions and you have found one that you like, you will need to open an account. While it's true that some banks will allow you to open an account online, others will require you to go down and do it in person. Either way you will need to have certain information on hand, including your social security number and driver's license. You will also have to submit to a brief credit check when applying at a bank. If you have been reported to the ChexSystems or another company, you will not be able to open an account until you have taken care of your debt.
There are many different benefits associated with opening a checking account, such as having quick and easy access to your funds. When you have a checking account at a bank, you will be able to write checks and use a debit card to pay for just about anything.
Another great reason to consider opening a checking account is that doing so is completely free. These days many banks do not charge a monthly service fee or anything like that, so you won't have to pay to have this type of account. You might have to pay other types of fees though, such as a nonsufficient funds fee if a check you write bounces.
If you ever find that you need to take out a loan for any reason, you will definitely be glad you have a checking account. All lenders require that prospective borrowers have an active checking account at a bank, so you will need to keep that in mind as well. This is one of the more basic requirements for applying for a loan.
The sheer convenience of having a checking count alone is enough of a reason to open one. You will be able to use your checking account to pay bills quickly online, so you don't have to worry about mailing in your payments. Many utility companies will allow you to have the money for your bills taken out of your checking account automatically, so you won't have to lift a finger.
When you overdraft, your balance goes into the negative because you didn't have adequate funds to make a payment. Banks offer overdraft protection as an optional feature, and it's important that you take the time to look into it. You will be able to link other accounts to your primary account so that money from your secondary accounts will be transferred over to avoid a negative balance. Overdraft protection can save you from a lot of steep fees, so it is important that you take the time to consider opting for it when opening a checking account. Whatever you do, make sure that you understand what all of your overdraft options are.
How to Avoid Fees
Even those who have a free account will still need to be aware of nonsufficient funds fees, which can be crippling if they start to accumulate. The easiest way to avoid getting charges these fees is to make sure of how much money you have in your account at all times so that your balance doesn't go into the negative. Those who are vigilant when it comes to checking their balance will be able to avoid this nightmare entirely. You can avoid ATM fees by simply making a point of taking out enough money to where you won't have to worry about needing to use a machine from another bank, which will inevitably result in a small fee.