How to find the best checking account
A few years ago, the choice of free checking accounts was huge. But now more and more banks are charging fees. If you want to get away cheaply, you have to look closely.
The market for checking accounts is changing - to the detriment of customers.
Checking accounts are no longer the hotly contested market in the world of banks, but securities accounts. And that means the number of checking account specials, the number of low-cost offers for everyone, is getting smaller. Nevertheless: Who needs a good and free current account today, can still find.
The path to a low-cost second account is therefore becoming more difficult for customers, and unfortunately it is not becoming more transparent either.
First question: account for what?
In principle, switching to a new account is not a problem. The choice of banks is huge.
The salary account: If you want to move your salary account, some banks still roll out the red carpet for you. Completely free of charge indeed rarely, but often nevertheless not expensive.
Many of the banks offer several account models - and which of them pays off best in a specific case is often not so easy to determine. The annual fee, the cost of a credit card, the cost of a checking card, the cost of transfers, the cost of withdrawing foreign currencies, and the overdraft interest rate are just a few of the factors to consider. One account model quickly costs $200 over the year, the other practically nothing. That’s why it’s useful to have a calculator that compares costs in a model-like, concrete way.
The secondary account: You are simply looking for a convenient second account, for traveling, for diversifying, for the joint household budget or the vacation home. And they would prefer not to spend anything at all. Then the choice becomes much smaller. This is where the banks are making changes.
The youth account: You are still young. Then you still have plenty of choice. Many banks offer free or low-cost accounts for people up to their early 20s, 25s or even 28s, schoolchildren, students and trainees. And some even not only for trainees and students, but for all young customers.
Second question: Switch accounts, but how?
Once you have found the right account, switching itself has become quite easy. Just talk to the new bank: the new ones will take care of everything for you. No more standing orders or direct debits should burst. In the case of a classic switch, the new bank is even liable for ensuring that everything works.
Is your account free of charge? If not, my question would be: why don’t you switch then?
Some praise the service. The personal relationship. Are you that satisfied with your bank? Maybe it’s just habit. Or the feeling that bank fees are not that high. I can tell you that’s often deceptive: a few hundred dollars add up quickly.
But there are also reasons that lie with politics and the banks. I see two points in particular.
The free database that every citizen can use to compare what all checking accounts cost doesn’t exist. What does exist are good databases with an overview of low-cost accounts, but no comparison that really includes the hundreds of banks with their thousands of accounts.
There is also often a lack of convincing offers. Actually, switching checking accounts to another bank was all the rage in bank marketing for years. That was how new customers were to be landed, that was how banks wanted to grow. Free checking accounts and checking account switching bonuses replaced high overnight interest rates as a lure for new customers. But beyond the occasional low rates, little happened.
In the meantime, the banks have given up trying to lure customers with their checking accounts. They are now wooing customers with securities accounts: Who already has a current account, is to furnish in addition still another security account with its bank. With a lot of marketing millions the banks try to incite their customers to open a securities account.
Why have the banks changed tack? From the bankers’ point of view, such an offer has two main advantages:
The bank no longer has to take care of the customer’s investment itself, but still earns money from it. After all, fees are charged for every purchase and sale of shares, funds or other securities. Not to mention the basic fees for many securities accounts.
The customer assumes a large part of the risks of investing money himself when the prices of the stocks and funds in his securities account fluctuate.
And now go
Back to the checking account: Has the train sailed with the low-cost offers for you as a bank customer?
Of course not.
It still applies. Compare! There are still many free accounts with good services and many accounts that are probably much cheaper for you than your current one.
Differentiate! If you have different requirements for several accounts, find the most favorable one in each case. It doesn’t pay to pay more. Even the bankers always have your best interests in mind: your money.