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I did a search to try and find past threads about this and came up empty.

I've had a bank acount with fifth third since '92 (original bank was not 5/3 but got swallowed up by bank mergers back in early 2000's). I always had the cheapest "FREE" checking account where I would get paid 0 interest, but mostly everything else including check reorder was free.

5/3 has repeatedly kept changing their account structure while forcing their customers to choose one of their "new" accounts at least 4 times in the past 7 years. Each time they tell me my old account is no longer grandfathered and that I must choose a new account.

I'm reached my boiling point with them. I received a letter this past December stating the same thing. Please call or visit a branch to roll your account into a new product or we will automatically roll your existing account into a new account which may end up in additional fees being charged to your account!

Well I basically use 5/3 as my free checking in which I write standard paper checks and have both my wife and my paychecks automatically deposited. That's it. I don't need online billpay, free ATM (rarely use ATMs as I use my rewards credit cards for all purchases) etc. Just a basic "FREE" account that doesn't pay interest and is free from the usual "high minimum balance" while offering free checks.

Does anyone have a list of current banks offering "FREE" checking (I live in Illinois near Chicago)?

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Well I have bloody fingers from doing searches on credit unions, banks, kasasa accounts etc. There really are a lot of ... (more)

PRO710 (Apr. 25, 2013 @ 2:54p) |

Pro710,

Ally is my primary bank. I suggest you go with them. Do open the Chase account too for several reasons. First, yo... (more)

noelandres (Apr. 26, 2013 @ 2:54a) |

Go with the credit union, particularly Alliant. You'll appreciate the lack of hassle, the lack of effort to tack on fees... (more)

Argyll (Apr. 26, 2013 @ 4:59a) |

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"Bank of America eBanking" is free as long as you get electronic statements and never use a real life teller (all transactions through an ATM). PNC has something similar and has Chicago branches.

PNC is free w/direct deposit & allows check writing. I think it's a good balance between the higher interest online banks & the fees everywhere accounts at some of the other big banks.

I would highly recommend PNC. I hate the virtual wallet, so I don't use that, but know some people that do. I have Performance Checking w/ 1500 AVG daily balance is an amazing checking account.

https://www.pnc.com/webapp/unsec/Blank.do?siteArea=/pnccorp/pnc/...

LiquidSilver said:   "Bank of America eBanking" is free as long as you get electronic statements and never use a real life teller (all transactions through an ATM). PNC has something similar and has Chicago branches.
Bank of America Enhanced Checking - if you either link a BofA credit card to the checking account, deposit at least $2000 a month into the account, or keep a $5000 minimum daily balance. Link: https://www.bankofamerica.com/products/deposits/checking-account...

https://www.firstambank.com/PersonalBanking/Banking/Checking/Fre...


Even better, the Prosper Checking Account at Royal Savings Bank at 92nd and Commerical in Chicago has free check printing for the life of the account as well......

http://www.royalbankweb.com/home/personal/checking#prosper

Almost any credit union, you probably will have to pay for printed checks but that's it.

You're in chicago? Alliant Credit Union.

http://www.alliantcreditunion.org/depositsinvestments/checking/b...

If you choose electronic statements and have direct deposit, they'll pay you interest. If not, everything is still free but without interest. No minimum balance. Your first box of checks is free. As a credit union, they're not likely to bait and switch you with fees.

The only downside is you have to open a (free) savings account with at least $5 in it, and you need to be a member of a qualifying organization or live in a certain community to join. One of the organizations is a 501(c) charity which you can join with a $10 donation, then write off your taxes.

OP, as snork said, for local credit unions in your area. In the last month I opened up 4 deposit accounts at local CU's and every single one of them had free checking and savings accounts. I was even offered free checks/debit cards at 3 of the 4.

USAA, totally free and free checks to boot.

I dropped 5/3rd Bank a long time ago. I don't trust a bank with an improper fraction in its name.

I would recommend Charles Schwab; you have to open a investment account, but the checking and savings accounts are all free, with excellent customer service.

Walk out the front door of your home or office and look around. Choose the bank on the nearest corner. Just about every bank offers a free account with direct deposit, and everyone should have a bank that is convenient to them during business hours for depositing random checks and other pesky transactions.

Navy Federal Credit Union if you qualify for it.

Thanks for all the replies guys!

Can't wait to give 5/3 the boot. Funny I just received a 300 offer to open a Chase checking account. No thanks! They are just as bad with their fees and I already have those crooks for my mortgage!

So it's between PNC performance checking and Alliant. I already have an Alliant Savings account but Alliant still charges for replacement checks; $15 for 120 checks but is paying .65% interest. On the other hand the PNC account has PNC branded checks for free but is paying .01% interest. Opinions?

Based on that I'm leaning toward PNC. I have 2 BOA Visa's (321 and Norwegian) as well as a Chase Sapphire Visa and use Costco Business. Are there any ways to get better perks by selecting a checking account that is related to one of my rewards credit cards?

Some banks count your mortgage towards minimum balance for fee waivers. I know BofA does.

How about Ally. They have free checks. You don't seem to have a need for a bank with a physical location. Although, they pay interest but it meets your other 2 requirements.
http://www.ally.com/bank/interest-checking-account/

Go with Alliant. I've used them as my primary bank/credit union for the last year and a half and I live 1500 miles away from Chicago. The big advantages:

- No fees at any Allpoint ATMs (7-11, Costco, etc) or Co-Op ATMs (most credit unions participate). You can make deposits at Co-Op network ATMs without any hassle. They do not charge a fee for using another network's ATM (though you must pay the other network's fee).
- High interest checking account with no gimmicks (minimum debit card charges, direct deposit minimums, etc).
- Very fast ACH push/pull if initiated from Alliant.
- Online check scanning/deposit.

I've been very pleased.

sullim4 said:   Go with Alliant. I've used them as my primary bank/credit union for the last year and a half and I live 1500 miles away from Chicago. The big advantages:

- No fees at any Allpoint ATMs (7-11, Costco, etc) or Co-Op ATMs (most credit unions participate). You can make deposits at Co-Op network ATMs without any hassle. They do not charge a fee for using another network's ATM (though you must pay the other network's fee).
- High interest checking account with no gimmicks (minimum debit card charges, direct deposit minimums, etc).
- Very fast ACH push/pull if initiated from Alliant.
- Online check scanning/deposit.

I've been very pleased.


Sullim;

Are you paying for their checks or do you have another online check retailer that is possibly cheaper? I'm new to online check writing and I think ALLIANT offers that for free right? If they do I guess I could just get used to writing my checks online?

Don't forget Huntington's Asterisk Free checking.
Often has $100-150 account opening bonus.
If you live in an area with meijer stores, they'll have bonus coupons at the new branches inside Meijers.

In Michigan, Independent Bank has Totally Free Checking.

TravelerMSY said:   Some banks count your mortgage towards minimum balance for fee waivers. I know BofA does.

I would check into this. Depending the balance on your mortgage you can get "elite/premium" status for free... Free checks, money orders, cashiers checks, etc.. US Bank does it as well

TCF Bank has a free checking account, although I would not recommend them.

Now that I'm researching all the options for checking accounts out there I find myself getting greedy (guess that's why my FATWALLET moniker says "GREEDY MEMBER" . I mean 5/3 has paid me almost nothing for years and I am now salivating at the chance to make between .40 (ALLY) and .65 (Alliant) % on my checking balance. I am also now looking to benefit from online billpay as I think that will greatly simplify my monthly check writing against re-occurring bills.

That said I was going to open an Alliant account but they don't offer online or mobile bill pay. I guess I'm getting picky now I think I really want those options at this point.

Right now ALLY seems to be the top candidate offering free checks, online billpay, mobile app and pays .4% for balances below 15K and .75% for balances above 15K (something I often have). They may be the winner

I've been reading more online articles regarding KASASA accounts and have found that there are online banks or credit unions offering as high as 6% on checking, albeit with restrictions and cap limits. I found a local credit union offering 3.09% apy on checking up to 5K cap with free online, mobile, billpay etc.

https://www.myconsumers.org/en/personal-banking/checking/free-re...

Opinions going this route versus the ALLY or ALLIANT route?

Don't forget Chase if you want convenience in chicagoland

amd555 said:   Don't forget Chase if you want convenience in chicagoland

You know I'm not fond of Chase but I have a $300 offer I just received in the mail. This looks good. Only CON is that they pay squat in terms of interest just like 5/3 but I won't be paying any fees!

Premier Checking Account:

* Free Online Billpay and Mobile Banking
* Free checks, money orders, travelers checks, safe deposit box
* No monthly maintenance fee if I link to my Chase Mortgage!
* 300 bonus deposited into checking account

Opinions on this deal?

OP have you checked out Credit Unions in your area?

Beware Consumers Credit Union, IL. Tried to stiff me with 2.4% car loan going up to 18% suddenly, AFTER I mailed in car title and got a manager to sign for it certified mail to validate loan. Paid off loan with proceeds of refinancing house rather than deal with hinkiness.

I did try and find some local credit unions and investigate whether I could meet criteria to join first. Then I started looking at rates and requirements. So many sites and soooo confusing. I did look at Consumer's CU as it was one of the local ones. Then I found a site that showed CUs that pay high interest: some as high as 6% on your checking balance (Navy CU one of them); but then there are caps on the balance they'll pay interest on, and other restrictions like minimum monthly debit card purchases (which I never use) etc. Makes searching even more convoluted and confusing

Well I have bloody fingers from doing searches on credit unions, banks, kasasa accounts etc. There really are a lot of choices out there and many banks/CUs paying bigtime interest (commonly 3% on kasasa). Problem is they vary with caps on interest and require other minimum debit transactions etc. It really gets confusing trying to compare them all together, brick/mortar versus online only to boot.

That said I think the Chase deal with 300 bonus cash and no minimum balance is the easy option for me at this point. They don't pay squat but they have solid online billpay, mobile banking, free everything and are all over Chicago like the one of the previous posters' mentioned. I can always choose Chase now and give them a boot in a year if they start charging me fees and then goto a high rate CU or online bank at that time (ALLY and First State Bank were my 2 top picks).

Thanks to everyone for the helpful suggestions and opinions!

Pro710,

Ally is my primary bank. I suggest you go with them. Do open the Chase account too for several reasons. First, you get that $300 Second, since Ally does not has branches, you might need a bank with a branch from time to time. Third, you can link your Ally account to your Chase account, and use the Ally online banking website to send money back and forth those accounts for free (nice for meeting chase $500/monthly direct deposit requirement). Put most of your money in the Ally account since it pays a higher APY. Close your Chase account after 6 months and repeat 3 months later.

Also, Ally Bank reimburses you all the ATMs fees. But if they reimburse you more than $600/year, they will send you and the IRS a 1099-INT on that "income". This will cost you some money come tax time. So, if you happen to withdraw money a lot as to go over that $600 level, I suggest you use your Chase card (in Chase ATMs) as your cash withdrawal method, at least some days. Personally this does not apply to me since I don't withdraw cash that ofter (prefer to pay with credit cards).

Go with the credit union, particularly Alliant. You'll appreciate the lack of hassle, the lack of effort to tack on fees and the fact you can talk to them if there's a problem; they don't automatically assess penalty fees.



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