How to Choose the Right Checking Account

a woman researches checking accounts online

Finding the perfect checking account is an important financial decision. It's the financial hub for many daily activities—from bill payments to online shopping. With countless options available today, making this decision feels like finding a needle in a haystack. But fear not! In this guide, we'll simplify the process and give key insights to help you navigate the array of choices. Let’s find a checking account that meets your needs and aligns with your financial goals!

Brick-and-Mortar vs Online Banking

To kick things off, let’s assess the pros and cons of brick-and-mortar versus online banks. This choice is all about tailoring your banking experience to fit your needs and preferences. Remember to consider your convenience priorities, lifestyle, proximity to physical branches, and tech comfort.

Online banks offer remote access, lower fees, and higher interest rates because they don’t have physical branches to maintain. On the other hand, if you prefer in-person assistance, often deal with cash or checks, or require a wide range of services (like mortgages, loans, and wealth management), traditional brick-and-mortar banks may be your cup of tea. Some banks, like Academy Bank, offer a blend of digital and in-person services,  providing robust online and mobile tools for their customers.

Types of Checking Accounts

There are several types of checking accounts to consider, and your decision should align with your needs and financial goals. Here are some categories to consider:

  • Standard Checking Account: Basic for everyday transactions.
  • High-Interest Checking Account: Offers higher interest rates with minimum balance requirements.
  • Rewards Checking Account: Rewards certain banking behaviors, like debit card usage.
  • Online Checking Account: Operates online with lower fees and higher interest rates.
  • Joint Checking Account: Shared by multiple individuals, ideal for couples or families.
  • Senior Checking Account: Tailored for seniors with reduced fees and extra services.
  • Student Checking Account: Designed for students with fewer fees and relaxed requirements.
  • Business Checking Account: For business owners, offering business-specific features.

Once you have pinpointed the category that suits your needs and goals, you can start to narrow down your search.

Minimum Balance Requirements

Make sure that you fully understand the minimum opening balance requirements (or minimum deposits) tied to your account. These requirements can vary between banks, typically falling in the range of $25 to $100 (or even higher), depending on the account type. Also, failing to meet daily/monthly balance requirements in deposit accounts may result in extra monthly service charge fees up to $15-$20, which could impact your overall banking costs.

To keep your banking experience cost-effective, ensure that you can consistently maintain the required balance. It's all about securing your financial stability and avoiding the unnecessary charges!

Understanding Account Fees

Let's talk about the dollars and cents of checking accounts because, yes, they do come with their own set of fees. It is important to understand fees when selecting the right account. We're talking about the usual suspects: monthly service fees, overdraft fees, non-sufficient funds fees, out-of-network ATM fees, and those pesky foreign transaction fees.

Monthly service fees are a common feature of checking accounts, but depending on the account, they might be waived if you meet certain requirements. However, this is not a guarantee. You should also consider overdraft fees, which vary among banks and could involve overdraft protection options. Understanding these policies can help guide you while selecting the right account.

The inside scoop? Fees aren’t always the villains in this story. In fact, in the world of banking, you often get what you pay for. Dodging maintenance fees might lead you to basic account offerings, leaving potential savings and rewards behind.  So, take a moment to research what suits you best rather than simply choosing the bargain upfront.   It’s all about making cents (and dollars) in the long run!

ATM Networks

Your money, your rules! So, why not have it within reach whenever you need? Start by sizing up your ATM habits – how often do you find yourself reaching for cash? If you frequently rely on cash payments, having easy access to ATMs should be at the top of your checklist. Look for banks with an extensive network of ATMs, ideally with locations near your home, workplace, or other frequented areas.

Access to a widespread ATM network can help you avoid fees associated with out-of-network withdrawals. Academy Bank is part of the extensive MoneyPass® ATM network, serving up free access to over 30,000 ATMs across the nation. No more fee-filled ATM adventures – just easy access to your hard-earned cash wherever you are!

Best Online Banking Features

When choosing a checking account, don't just focus on the money. It’s about the digital features, too! Here are some digital banking that may play a big role in your decision-making process:

  • Mobile Check Deposit: Look for the ability to deposit checks using your mobile device, saving you time and effort.1
  • Peer-to-Peer Payments: Ensure compatibility with apps like Zelle® for seamless money transfers.
  • Mobile Bill Pay: Check for online or mobile bill pay options to simplify payments anywhere, anytime.1
  • Account Notifications: Stay informed with alerts for balances, transactions, and potential issues.
  • Card Lock/Freeze: Enhance security by temporarily locking or freezing your debit card.
  • Two-Factor Authentication: Prioritize safety with accounts offering two-factor authentication for added protection.

Having the right digital banking features not only simplifies your financial management but also allows you to handle your banking needs conveniently, even when you're on the move.

Banks with FDIC Insurance

Your money's safety is a top priority. Check if the bank has FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) insurance. It offers standard coverage up to $250,000 per account holder, per bank, protecting your money in the unlikely event of bank financial challenges. Having FDIC insurance has several advantages, and it provides you with peace of mind, knowing that your hard-earned funds are protected.

Accounts with Rewards

Rewards aren't just for credit cards! They can play a significant role in your choice of checking accounts. Here’s why rewards matter:

  • Boosting Your Financial Health: Checking account rewards can add a positive dimension to your financial picture. They allow you to earn benefits while managing your everyday expenses, which can be especially rewarding over time.
  • Extra Earnings: Just as with a credit card, some checking accounts offer cashback, points, or other incentives for certain transactions. These rewards can be a valuable supplement to your income and help you make the most of your money.
  • Offsetting Fees: In some cases, rewards can help offset account fees. By maximizing your rewards, you may find that you're effectively reducing the overall cost of maintaining your checking account.

To make the most of rewards, make sure to understand the program's structure, match it to your spending habits, and ensure it complements your overall financial strategy.

What checking account is right for me?

The Academy Bank Select Rewards Checking Account isn’t your average Joe—it’s your financial sidekick, packed with perks and benefits! (See Insurance Disclosure Notice). Here are some key features:

  • Early Pay: Score access to your hard-earned cash one day early.
  • Nationwide ATM Access: Enjoy unlimited and free access to over 30,000 ATMs nationwide through the MoneyPass® Network, making cash withdrawals convenient and fee-free.
  • Online Banking Convenience: You’re in control! Access your account anytime, anywhere with Digital Banking, bill pay, and mobile banking with check deposit.
  • Peer-to-Peer Payments: Easily send and transfer money using Zelle®.
  • Visa Debit Card & Controls: Benefit from a Visa debit card and additional card controls for added security.
  • FDIC-Insured: Academy Bank is a member of the FDIC, providing its customers with the reassurance that their deposits are insured up to $250,000 per account.
  • Free e.Statements: Go green and declutter your life at no extra cost.
  • Saving Cents Eligibility: Automatically round up your debit card purchases and save the spare change in your savings account.
  • Exclusive Rewards: Gain access to a range of rewards and discounts, including travel and leisure discounts, cashback offers for online shopping, roadside assistance, healthcare discounts, and more.
  • Identity Theft Protection: Rest easy knowing that the account includes IDProtect®, offering identity theft monitoring, resolution services, and expense reimbursement coverage. (See Insurance Disclosure)
  • Unexpected Loss & Accident Protection: We've got your back with cell phone protection, travel accidental death & dismemberment insurance, and buyer's protection. (See Insurance Disclosure)

While there are some account requirements, like a $100 opening balance and a $6 monthly service charge, the benefits and rewards offered by the Academy Bank Select Rewards Checking Account make it a game-changer for people who are seeking both financial advantages and security.

Get started today!

Member FDIC

1Mobile carrier fees may apply.

Important Insurance Disclosure Notice: The descriptions herein are summaries only and do not include all terms, conditions, and exclusions of the Benefits described. Please refer to the actual Guide to Benefit and/or insurance disclosure documents for complete details of coverage and exclusions.  Coverage is provided through the company named in the Guide to Benefit for on the certificate of insurance.

INSURANCE DISCLOSURE: Insurance products are NOT insured by FDIC or any Federal Government Agency; NOT a deposit of or guaranteed by the bank or any bank affiliate. Coverage is provided through the company named in the Guide to Benefit or on the certificate of insurance.